Based on the number of arrests, the Fairy Creek logging protests on Vancouver Island have now officially surpassed the War in the Woods of the 1990s in terms of scale.
According to Stand.earth, 866 people had been arrested as of September 6 – surpassing the number of arrests that took place in Clayoquot Sound in the 1990s.
And it seems unlikely to end anytime soon. Teal Jones, the company with cutting rights in the area targeted by protesters, has applied to have an injunction extended by another year.
Meanwhile, it appears police are getting frustrated with being portrayed as bullies for doing their jobs. RCMP have been criticized for using pepper spray and force when making arrests.
The National Police Federation recently polled British Columbians on attitudes towards the RCMP’s handling of illegal anti-logging blockades on Vancouver Island.
While it found 78% of respondents agreed that protest is an important part of democracy, it also found 82% agreed the police have a duty to enforce court injunctions, and 73% said requests by the Pacheedaht First Nation, who have asked protesters to leave their territory, should be respected.
The poll of 800 British Columbians was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights on behalf of the National Police Federation.
"Our Members have maintained their professionalism and composure against a steadily increasing barrage of verbal taunts; racial slurs; engineered physical barriers; human chains and bindings that threaten the health and safety of everyone in the area,” National Police Federation president Brian Sauve writes in a press release.
“Protestors and their supporters have also undertaken a campaign of on-line and personal stalking and harassment of individual officers for which the NPF is considering legal action.
“Police do not create the law but are regularly called on to enforce it. Blaming or targeting the police due to disagreement with the law is a manipulative and destructive diversion tactic.”
Protesters have come up with some novel ways of resisting arrest. According to affidavits filed in support of the injunction extension, some use a tactic called a “sleeping dragon,” in which protesters are handcuffed together with limbs then encased in PCV pipe.
“Blockaders have also dug trenches into the roadway to lock themselves into the bottom of the trench with a sleeping dragon anchored in concrete,” the testimony reads. “Blockaders have modified this practice to dig trenches bigger and deeper, to place multiple persons inside such that a collapse of the dirt walls would suffocate the occupants.”
Stand.earth has decried the use of violence and “life-threatening tactics” used by police in making arrests.
“Stand.earth condemns police violence against forest defenders and is demanding the provincial government implement deferrals to stop logging in remaining rare, at-risk old growth forests, and to immediately rescind RCMP from (Fairy Creek,” the environmental organization states in a news release.
But protesters have also used violence against RCMP, according to affidavits in the Teal Jones application. And according to Sauve, one RCMP officer suffered a concussion “as a result of being pushed to the ground by a crowd of protestors,"
An affidavit in the Teal Jones injunction extension application gives testimony that an RCMP officer was “assaulted by several protesters trying to force their way past an RCMP Access Control Point” on July 24.
In another incident, “an officer was choked and there was an attempt to gain control of his sidearm.”
On August 10, “protesters punched, pushed, and kicked several RCMP members while trying to erect tripods and disable an industry gate by pouring concrete into the hinge mechanism. A civilian private security personnel was also assaulted.”
Teal Jones also claims contractors have been harassed and threatened, and have had equipment stolen and vandalized. Both Teal Jones and the police federation describe the protesters as well-organized and well-funded.
"The protestors are extremely and globally well-funded, many of whom are highly experienced in media manipulation and propaganda," Sauve said.
Teal Jones has cutting rights to Tree Farm Licence 46, as well as permission to log by the Pacheedaht and Ditidaht First Nation in their traditional territory.
Protesters say the logging threatens some of the last remaining old growth forest on Vancouver Island. Teal Jones says the blocakdes threaten jobs.
In its application to the BC Supreme Court, the company says the blockades are causing “significant disruption to Teal Cedar's business and that of its contractors.”
The injunction against blockades was granted in April this year. Teal Jones is asking the court to extend the injunction to September 26, 2022.