Open letter: union needs to back climate change protesters, not persecute them
Vancouver Ecosocialist Group has issued an open letter to the International Longshore Warehouse Union, criticizing it for offering a reward for information about a group of protesters who came to Port Metro Vancouver's staff last month. Below, the full text of the letter:
ILWU Canada President Mark Gordienko announced December 20 on the waterfront union's website and in the mainstream media the offer of a "$2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of masked intruders who violently occupied Port Metro Vancouver’s office on Monday December 16 and intimidated office staff."
This action by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has tarnished its own proud history of peaceful civil disobedience by refusing to load ships in support of progressive struggles. Only four years ago a sizable march of ILWU members, supporters, and international guests erected a plaque in Vancouver to the outcome of one such refusal. That one led to a massive lockout and to the 1935 Battle of Ballantyne Pier, where hundreds of dock workers fought police for hours in an attempt to stop scabbing.
Last month's reward offer also gives credence, intended or not, to a growing international, right-wing campaign to make peaceful protest illegal.
We urge the ILWU to abandon this course, and we call on the rest of the labour movement to remind the ILWU of labour's long history of peaceful protest and civil disobedience actions.
Gordienko said the move reflects the union's desire to deter repetition of the action by a half-dozen "anti-capitalist" Santa Claus impersonators. They were opposing the Fraser Surrey Docks coal export project. That and planned expansion of the North Vancouver's Neptune Terminal would make the port of Vancouver into North America's largest coal exporter. The costumed activists—members of Rising Tide Vancouver Coast Salish Territories—entered the office in an attempt to hand out lumps of coal, the traditional symbol of Santa's displeasure with bad behaviour, to Port Metro officials.
A Vancouver Sun story quotes Brother Gordienko saying the protesters used violent "scare tactics," against the mostly female staff, including throwing the pieces of coal. More than a dozen pictures of the action are on the Vancouver Media Co-op website. Some show jostling among the protesters and male officials trying to evict them from the office. An eyewitness told the Vancouver Ecosocialist Group that the only female staffer on the scene as protesters arrived, quickly and calmly retired, untroubled by the Santas, to another part of the office complex. The same source says the pieces of coal, unable to be delivered as intended, were not thrown, but dumped carefully from Santa bags onto the floor in a couple of spots. A statement was read, a song was sung, the protesters departed.