Judge grants injunction against further blockades at legislature

A B.C. Supreme Court injunction was granted Thursday prohibiting demonstrators from blocking, physically obstructing or intimidating anyone entering the legislature building, following a raucous protest on Tuesday.

The Office of the Speaker applied for the order after the protest, which saw demonstrators lock arms and yell at MLAs, staff and others trying to get into the legislature, and disrupting ceremonial activities for the government’s throne speech. Several hundred demonstrators turned out to show support for Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to a planned liquefied natural gas pipeline in northern B.C.

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More protests are planned for today, targeting government offices.

The injunction granted Thursday covers only the legislative precinct. The legislature remains closed to the public and Family Day activities planned for Monday have been cancelled.

Along with the injunction, Speaker Darryl Plecas is seeking general damages and costs, which were not detailed.

Justice Gordon Weatherill’s order requires that doorways be accessible at the legislature, at the “bunker” building at 612/614 Government St. and at the Armouries building at 431 Menzies St.

It prohibits anyone from interfering with or covering the closed circuit television cameras on the precinct.

Weatherill said the order does not ban people from assembling.

“Provided the terms of this order are complied with, the defendants and other persons are free to participate in a peaceful, lawful and safe protest in the designated public areas.”

Legislative assembly protective-services members and Victoria police officers — or other police invited to the site — can arrest and remove anyone defying the order.

In his application to the court, Plecas said the protesters could return to the legislative precinct in coming days to interrupt government operations, pointing to posts on social media calling for protesters to bring about a government shutdown today.

As well as the legislature, he said he feared ministers’ offices in the precinct might be targeted.

Tuesday’s blockade led to lengthy delays for MLAs and staff, all of whom were accompanied by legislative assembly constables or Victoria police officers, Plecas said.

One staff member was pushed and spat upon, while another suffered a bloody nose and an MLA fell while trying to get past protesters and into the building, he said.

On any given work day, 300 to 500 staff are in the legislative precinct, Plecas said. Hundreds more members of the public and tourists visit, as well.

Protesters arrived on Feb. 6 to the front steps of the legislature and lit a fire, camping on the grounds until Tuesday about 9 p.m. The fire contravened the City of Victoria’s ban on open burning, the application said.

It burned continuously from Feb. 6 to Tuesday, with some demonstrators bringing wood to the site. Smoke was a cause of irritation for staff, the application said.

As well, protesters covered or blocked surveillance cameras nearby with red blankets, Plecas said. Some also smoked cigarettes and marijuana and vaped, contrary to legislature rules.

Loose dogs were brought to the grounds and excrement was not picked up, the application said.

Some protesters wore balaclavas covering their faces and black clothing and “acted in an aggressive and menacing manner” toward legislative protective-services members, it said.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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