A 235-metre black banner, the length of a supertanker, was staked into the legislature lawn at a massive demonstration Monday afternoon.
Oil-covered rubber ducks were thrown into the fountain and protesters briefly blocked Belleville Street.
"I am doing it for my grandkids and great-grandkids," said Teri Picard, as she practised civil disobedience by hammering a stake into the lawn.
Victoria police estimated the crowd size at 3,500.
There were no arrests. The protesters at the Defend Our Coast demonstration, led by Coastal First Nations, environmental groups and unions, were passionate and noisy but well-behaved.
The aim was to send a strong message to the federal and provincial governments that British Columbians are overwhelmingly opposed to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline carrying Alberta oilsands bitumen to Kitimat for export to Asia, planned twinning of the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby and oil supertankers on the coast.
"It's time to 'warrior-up,' " hereditary Chief Pete Erickson said.
"Together, we can stop this," said Squamish First Nations Chief Ian Campbell.
The turnout at the protest boosted hopes Ottawa will get the message. "This is going to be a long fight, but a victorious fight," Greenpeace executive director Bruce Cox said.
While police from Victoria, Saanich and Central Saanich were prepared for problems, with riot gear stashed in vehicles, the aim was to ensure everything went smoothly, said Victoria deputy police chief Del Manak.
"It's a peaceful, vocal protest and we don't want to get in the way of sending a strong message to government," he said.
"This is nowhere near to jeopardizing people's safety, so everyone's got to have a bit of tolerance and flexibility," Manak said.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said First Nations are standing shoulder-to-shoulder to stop the proposed pipelines. "We will fight this insanity through the joint review panel, in the courts of this country and, if necessary, at the barricades on the land itself," he said. "We will not stand down, we will not step back. We will stop Enbridge and the Kinder Morgan proposals dead in their tracks."
Liberal MLAs were not in evidence, but New Democrats, who oppose the Enbridge proposal, were out in force.
"This is what democracy looks like," said environment critic Rob Fleming, flanked by about 10 NDP MLAs and looking at the sea of waving signs.
The B.C. Liberal government, which in 2010 signed away the right to hold a provincial environmental assessment of Northern Gateway and other major energy projects, needs to scrap that agreement, said Fleming, adding that an NDP government would do so.
Federal Green party leader Elizabeth May lashed out at the federal government for smoothing the path for shipping crude oil to China by gagging or firing scientists and gutting environmental laws.
"[Prime Minister] Stephen Harper is ripping off our environmental laws to make room for Enbridge and Kinder Morgan," said May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands.
Enbridge spokesman Ivan Giesbrecht said in an emailed statement that the company respects the right of Canadians to make their opinions known through peaceful demonstrations, but disagrees with claims that tanker spills are inevitable. "Our marine-safety plans will introduce significant enhancements that are not currently available on the B.C. north coast," he said.
The pipeline application is being reviewed by the joint review panel of the National Energy Board, Giesbrecht said. "We believe this is the appropriate forum for evaluation of the project."
On Wednesday, protest gatherings will be held at MLA offices across the province.
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