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RCMP have made nearly 700 arrests as they continue to crack down on anti-logging protests on Vancouver Island.
RCMP tell APTN News they are enforcing the court injunction granted Teal-Jones in June to keep logging roads clear and leave employees alone.
But a recent video showing a protestor falling off a large tripod structure – to where a Mountie stands on the ground holding a chainsaw – has raised concerns about the increasing confrontations.
“This has become an incredibly dangerous scenario simply because of the actions of police, the recklessness of their decision making, and the lack of consideration that they carry for human safety and human life,” said Luke Wallace, who has been on the ground at the Fairy Creek watershed for around three months.
RCMP started enforcing the injunction in May – first by setting up an exclusion zone and then arresting those interfering with the logging company’s operations.
Raven Brascoupe is an Algonquin from eastern Canada who said she came to the exclusion zone to support fellow Indigenous peoples and protestors.
She said she was treated roughly during her arrest.
“There is some pressure tape around my right knee, there is a lot of swelling going on,” she said in a telephone interview.
“There is a knee brace that is on, as well; I cannot walk.”
But police say it’s the protestors who are creating the risky situation by building deep trenches and tripod structures.
Sgt. Chris Manseau, a spokesperson for the RCMP, said police have not received any reports of injuries or official complaints.
“We have been providing safety equipment like hard hats, face shields, and ear protection on individuals while they are being removed from their (tripod) devices,” Manseau said in an emailed statement.
“Medical assessments are also made at several points during the removal and arrest processes, and to date we have not received any complaints or reports of injuries since enforcement began on May 17, 2021.”
Manseau noted events at Fairy Creek are being documented and officers are wearing body cameras.
“I can assure you all our enforcement actions are well documented, including the use of body-worn cameras, which we are prepared to disclose as part of evidence in criminal proceedings, or as part of a complaint process,” he said.
He also cautioned that social media footage doesn’t give the full story.
“We would caution anyone viewing these videos and reading comments to keep in mind that they do not capture the events and lengthy efforts (often hours) leading up to, or following the arrests or attempts of arrests of individuals,” his statement said.
The battle over Fairy Creek, which is near Port Renfrew, has lasted for more than a year.
On June 7, Teal-Jones agreed to defer some old-growth trees in the Fairy Creek and Carmanah Walbran regions for two years.
But that’s not enough for some protesters who want permanent protection for the old-growth trees there and throughout the province.
The Rainforest Flying Squad, a protest group, said old-growth logging has not stopped in the area as many British Columbians believe.
“Some of these ancient trees are nine feet in diameter,” said Joshua Wright, a member of the group.
“The 475-hectare, old-growth forest is adjacent to the Fairy Creek watershed but left out of the deferral zone. Majestic 1,000-year-old ancient cedar trees are slated for logging.”
He said the giant trees will be gone forever if the province doesn’t act.
The Ministry of Forests told APTN the deferral zone is part of Tree Farm Licence 46.
“The (zone is) located in Granite Creek, and not part of the deferral areas requested by the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht and Huu-ay-aht First Nations on June 7,” the ministry added.
The ministry said the local First Nations are working on a forestry stewardship plan.
“In the June 7 Hišuk ma c̕awak Declaration from the Huu-ay-aht, Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations, the Nations asked that while they work to develop and implement world-class integrated resource management plans, approved forestry activities outside of the deferral areas could continue without disruption,” the statement said.
Some protesters have been arrested more than once trying to protect the ancient trees.
RCMP said 133 of 698 arrests were repeat arrests.
Rainbow Eyes, a spokesperson for the squad and a member of Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala First Nation, said she is being treated like a criminal for fighting for old-growth trees.
She said she has been arrested four times and cannot pass south of Nanaimo.
However, more protesters are on their way, she said.
“People are coming to support that haven’t come before,” she said. “So more people are coming to support; we are stronger together.”
Still, Wallace worries about a loss of life if things continue this way.
“We are now having internal conversations about what happens if someone’s life is seriously put in danger by the actions of the police, or if there is the potential for life loss,” he said.
“I think having those conversations … speaks volumes about the aggression of the RCMP, and the need for media and everyone in the country to ask if this is the country that they want to live in.”