Ayana Benning, 5, and her brother Tulsie Benning, 4, marched up with their signs and parents to join the celebration at Braden Main forest service road, where the police exclusion line was breached May 29. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)

Ayana Benning, 5, and her brother Tulsie Benning, 4, marched up with their signs and parents to join the celebration at Braden Main forest service road, where the police exclusion line was breached May 29. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)

RCMP arrest all but one at Waterfall blockade, protesters take it back next day

Crowds of supporters and a car of elders breached the police line

The people working to stop old-growth logging on southern Vancouver Island are using inventive tactics, determination and sheer numbers to prevent the RCMP from removing them from the various blockades in the forests west of Lake Cowichan and north of Port Renfrew.

On Friday (May 28), RCMP arrested most people stationed in and around the Waterfall blockade, except for one.

He was in what the organizers have dubbed a flying dragon: a cantilever position where the person was sitting at the end of a plank suspended over a steep drop. The other end of his plank was held in place by the weight of his car.

Police were unable to remove the individual safely after hours of effort, witnesses say.

Early the following day, many protest supporters gathered at a police line on Braden forest service road blocking access to the Waterfall blockade, about 12 kilometres north of Port Renfrew. Among the hundreds was elder Bill Jones and a 17-year-old Victor Peters, whom Jones calls the true Pacheedaht First Nation hereditary chief.

Jones cut the yellow police tape, a crowd of supporters behind him, as he addressed the RCMP standing a few metres up the road.

“You’ve been draining this territory for some 200 or 300 years. You have cut all our timber with no guilt or remorse. You are invaders. And I say to you: clear the road, to escort my chief,” Jones said.

RELATED:Solidarity for Indigenous claims over Tree Forest Lot 46 builds

RELATED: Seniors overwhelm RCMP barrier past Fairy Creek

Folk singer Luke Wallace led the gathered protesters in song at Braden Main May 29. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)

After the elders drove through, RCMP say several hundred pedestrians also chose to pass the exclusion line illegally, some going on to hike more than two hours up the road to the Waterfall blockade. The rest stayed inside the exclusion line for hours, singing and celebrating. There were children, seniors, friends and strangers. First-time protesters and some who have camped in the woods on and off for months.

The Rainforest Flying Squad says it has retaken Waterfall, which has been described as a last stand before the old-growth forest in that area.

RCMP Sgt. Kris Clark, a media relations officer present Saturday (May 29), said the exclusion zones are necessary to control access to the area for safety purposes since it’s an active worksite. When asked why the RCMP were allowing the public to stay, Clark looked around at the crowd of people, which he estimated to be between 700 and 1,000, and said, “I think you can infer why.”

Luke Wallace (centre) describes himself as a “pro-forestry, pro-logger folk singer in support of protecting old-growth forests and forest communities.” (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)

A coalition of media are planning to file legal action challenging the legality of the exclusion zones, where they say journalists have been denied access to report and observe.

The Rainforest Flying Squad refuses to follow the injunction, saying the old-growth trees are worth more standing. Thousands of people agree, based on the crowds that showed up Saturday – mostly masked, outside and distanced – between the Braden Main gathering and a ceremony at the Fairy Creek headquarters.

Hundreds also marched on Premier John Horgan’s offices in Langford, and other rallies were held around the province. The same day, a rally was held at Mesachie Lake to support Teal-Jones and the old-growth logging.

An RCMP officer surveys the crowd gathered beyond the exclusion line at Braden Main on May 29. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)

RELATED: Anti-logging protest lands on Premier John Horgan’s Langford doorstep

RELATED: VIDEO: Vancouver Island loggers, supporters rally in Mesachie Lake


Do you have a story tip? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca.

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