There have been many large protests at the B.C. legislature, some of which Premier John Horgan was part of in his younger days, but Tuesday’s siege was unacceptable, Horgan said Wednesday.
The anti-Coastal Gaslink demonstration was much smaller than others arranged by teachers and others to make demands on the B.C. government, but it turned into a siege to keep everyone out with intimidation and ridicule, Horgan told reporters Wednesday. He described a group of legislature interns who faced a wall of yelling protesters on their first day on the job.
“They were shaken, absolutely. Intimidated, in some cases dragged up the stairs to get into the building,” Horgan said. “They did not sign on to be intimidated, ridiculed and jostled as they tried to do their jobs.”
The speech was marred by hundreds of loud, chanting protesters rejecting reconciliation, a natural gas pipeline across northern B.C. and Canada itself as a colonial invader to the province. Students and other supporters of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposing the Coastal Gaslink pipeline surrounded the legislature, blocking MLAs, staff and reporters from entering Tuesday.
The ceremonial arrival and inspection by Lt. Governor Janet Austin was cancelled, as protesters backing blockades near Smithers plan the latest of a series of rallies to coincide with the speech.
Agriculture Minister Lana Popham was among those turned away by protesters as she tried to enter the building, one of several MLAs who decided to stay away for the first day of a session that is scheduled to last until the end of May.
Asked about the repeated blocking of roads, bridges and rail lines that has extended as far away as Ontario, Horgan said he has experienced that himself and has also been asked to put a stop to it.
“I don’t want to live in a society where politicians direct police to take action against other citizens without appropriate reasons for doing so,” Horgan said. “That’s why we have courts. That’s why injunctions are sought.
“People say hey, you’re in my way, get out of my way, why aren’t the cops doing something. I understand that. I drove by two bridges the other day on my way home the other day.”
Horgan said he cancelled his Tuesday news conference after the throne speech because he was upset about the events and wanted to take time to understand reports of injured staff members and other disruptions. He said he has seen many protests much bigger than the estimated 500 students who descended on Tuesday, but all kept their distance and delivered their message peacefully.