About 75 Greater Victoria seniors travelled to the Fairy Creek watershed Tuesday to show their support for environmentalists who have been blockading logging roads since last August.
The group, which said it was travelling at the invitation of Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones, met at the park-and-ride in Sooke and drove in convoy to the area, home of the last stand of unprotected old-growth forest on southern Vancouver Island.
About a third to half of the activists said they were willing to be arrested, “including me,” Victoria protester Sally Glover wrote in a text as she headed to Jordan River. “We are bringing food and wearing signs with yellow circles saying ‘Elders for Ancient Trees,’ ” she wrote.
The group walked right by two police officers who were manning the blockade, Glover said after returning to Lake Cowichan at about 6 p.m. Environmentalists at the camp were jumping up and down with excitement when they saw the older activists, she said.
“We all felt really good. We all walked past the barricade. The police officers went away and they didn’t come back. They picked up all of the yellow tape so we were able to walk freely across,” said Glover. “It was thrilling. … But it would have been really exciting to have been arrested and not charged but we didn’t need to. That was great.
Saul Arbess, 82-year-old member of the Rainforest Flying Squad, said it was great to have the elders out there “because we’re protecting the elder trees in my point of view.
“This is a very spirited group,” he said. “The people at headquarters and at Fairy Creek were very pleased to meet us.”
Jackie Larkin, 76, said the provincial government has lied about its willingness to protect old-growth forests. “It’s my responsibility to stand with the ancient trees and against the forestry companies and chainsaws that destroy precious ecosystems,” Larkin said in a statement issued by the group’s organizers.
It’s not fair that younger people have to be the only ones fighting for environmental sustainability, said organizer Susan Gage. We want to show that we, as elders, stand with these brave young people, who are trying to reveal the insanity of mowing down these ancient trees and the unique temperate rainforest ecosystem sustained by these mother trees,” she said.
Tuesday was the busiest day so far for the RCMP who are enforcing Teal-Jones Group’s court-ordered logging rights to Tree Farm Licence 46.
Since May 22, the RCMP have arrested 53 people — 46 for civil contempt of court for defying the court injunction and seven for obstruction.
By mid-morning five people had been arrested at the Braden Camp in the Port Renfrew area. And at least 10 protesters had been arrested at a northern checkpoint at the McClure forest service road where the RCMP are restricting access.
“I know there has been at least that many today,” said RCMP Sgt. Chris Manseau. “There were more arrests today than we planned for definitely, and in a different area than we had planned for.”
CHEK News reported 30 protesters were arrested at the Caycuse main road, possibly the highest number of daily arrests so far.
When enforcement is going to take place, the RCMP issue an invitation to media to allow reporters to witness the arrests.
“Some protesters, who are embedded with journalists, have access to the email I put out. They knew where we were going to be going and they went somewhere else,” said Manseau. “They want to slow down industry but we’re prepared for it. We know this will not be resolved overnight, but we’ll continue on.”