Protesters block Douglas Street to protest fossil-fuel investments

Led by a woman in a gas mask representing Mother Earth in distress, about 100 protesters marched and demonstrated Monday in front of Victoria downtown branches of major Canadian banks.

The demonstration, marking Earth Day, was meant as a protest against the banks’ investments in fossil fuels, a major source of greenhouse gases and climate change. Bank depositors were urged to move their accounts from banks to credit unions.

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Protesters gathered at noon in the 700 block of Yates Street, with signs bearing messages such as “Prevent Runaway Climate Change” and “Invest in Our Future Not Fossil Fuels” before heading to Douglas Street.

Outside the Bank of Nova Scotia, 702 Yates St., protesters halted while organizer Antonia Paquin, of the group Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island, read a statement from Mother Earth.

“Dear humans, for thousands and thousands of years we have known each other,” said Paquin. “I have loved you and you have loved me.”

“But now I am being exploited and your corporations and your governments and banks and your networks of power are poisoning my body,” she said standing beside the Earth Mother in a gas mask.

Protesters continued south along Douglas Street. As they passed the Bank of Montreal, 1225 Douglas St., a few protesters paused to string yellow caution tape across the entrance.

At Fort and Douglas streets, protesters briefly occupied the roadway at the cross-road centre to chant and sing. Accompanying police officers waved vehicles to detour.

With the RBC Royal Bank, 1079 Douglas St., and TD Canada Trust, 1080 Douglas St., in view, a few demonstrators cut up plastic bank-client cards.

Susan Quipp said she closed down her TD account because she is one of the protesters and believes in the message.

Quipp also said her account was a long forgotten one containing only $11 and change. But she still confronted the bank staff and told them what she was doing and why.

“They were very pleasant and sweet,” she said. “They even let me borrow a pair of scissors to cut the card up.”

Across the street, RBC closed its glass doors. A security guard stood watch and opened doors only for people showing bank cards.

While protesters gathered outside on the sidewalk, a white stretch limousine pulled up. Out of it stepped a tall, thin, imposing woman wearing an officious-looking black suit.

Introducing herself as Penny Price, CEO of the “Royal Dominion Imperial Financial Commerce Bank Trust,” the actor said bank customers should not be concerned about the protest actions.

“These market fluctuations will reach a state of equilibrium when our exploitation of the future becomes more profitable,” Prices said to a booing, hissing clot of spectators clearly enjoying the street theatre.

The crowd included a variety of ages from youths to seniors and even very young children holding on to caregivers.

Paul Stephen, holding his two-year-old son Cedar, said he hadn’t taken part in any demonstrations or actions since his youth. The call to protest became more urgent after Cedar was born.

“It was pretty discouraging for a lot of years because it seemed like nobody was acting so I kind of gave up,” said Stephen.

“But when he [Cedar] was born it wasn’t an option to just give up anymore,” he said. “It’s one thing when you just worry about yourself but it’s different when you have somebody else who will be living with what happens.”

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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