The Victoria Police Department says the actions of demonstrators gathered at the B.C. Legislature ahead of the throne speech Tuesday morning “are unacceptable.”
Hundreds rallied to show support and stand in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs ahead of the speech from the throne. The demonstration became tense earlier in the morning as protesters screamed “shame” and blocked MLAs from entering the provincial building.
Ceremonial proceedings were cancelled for the first time in B.C. history but the throne speech went ahead with Lieutenant Governor of B.C. Janet Austin present.
VicPD condemned the actions of demonstrators gathered outside.
“Today has seen [MLAs], reporters and staff blocked from entering the building. People have been pushed and shoved,” VicPD spokesperson Bowen Osoko said in a statement. “This is unacceptable. Our officers have worked to ensure safe entry and exit to the legislature while balancing the right to peaceful protest. Peaceful protest does not involve pushing and shoving, nor obstructing people from their places of work.”
VicPD also said it received many questions about why officers aren’t making arrests.
“Our primary duty is to keep the public safe.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, Indigenous youth have occupied the Legislature for six days and say they’ll stay there for as long as it takes.
The protesters have repeated their demands since occupying the ceremonial entrance of the legislature. They are defying a B.C. Supreme Court injunction to allow construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline from gas fields near Dawson Creek to a new liquefied natural gas export facility at Kitimat.
The project has been approved by the federal and provincial governments, as well as all 20 elected Indigenous councils along the route, including the Wet’suwet’en. Hereditary chiefs and their supporters reject the courts and elected officials, who they say only have power over reserves.
— With files from Tom Fletcher