The atmosphere at the BC Legislature building was tense Monday afternoon as hundreds gathered on the front steps in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline through their traditional territory.
The demonstrators were on site as of 3 p.m., despite an injunction put forward by House Speaker Darryl Plecas and granted by the Supreme Court of BC on Feb. 13.
The injunction allows demonstrators to be on the Legislature property as long as they don’t obstruct access to the building to Members of the Legislative Assembly, staff, and officers, as long as they don’t block closed circuit televisions, or restrict access to the building, including through main doors or public roadways.
The group pushed forward to the top of the Legislature steps where they were met with leaders of Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en, Kolin Sutherland-Wilson, Saul Brown and others. #yyj #victoriabc pic.twitter.com/O7Rrr4WK4l— Nina Grossman (@NinaGrossman) February 24, 2020
Dozens of demonstrators piled onto the ceremonial steps and blocked the entryway. Black Press Media has also heard reports that some people chained themselves to the gates or to one another, though this could not be confirmed.
Legal observers were seen negotiating with members of the Victoria Police Department as of 4 p.m., when there were at least 10 officers present near the steps.
The occupation was organized jointly between a number of grassroots organizations, including Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en, Climate Justice Victoria, Divest UVic, Rise and Resist, the University of Victoria Sustainability Project and the Balmoral Tiny House Warriors Build.
Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en has been the driving force behind a number of solidarity movements, including an 18-hour sit-in at the at the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources and a six-day occupation of the BC Legislature building’s front steps earlier this month.
Ta’Kaiya Blaney, one of the groups leaders, pointed to a recent protest by members of the logging industry at the Legislature building.
“The fact that they are not effected by this injunction but Indigenous youth peacefully standing here are – it’s unacceptable and it shows the priorities of Canadian law and it shows the ways in which Canadian law is not just,” she said to the crowd.
The group’s latest Legislature occupation follows recent arrests of people at a blockade in Tyendinaga Mohawk territory in southeastern Ontario. That demonstration was also done in solidarity with We’suwet’en First Nation hereditary chiefs.
VicPD tweeted updates from the Legislature building, saying they will remain on scene to ensure “protests are safe, peaceful and lawful.”