Coal protest at Port of Vancouver offices gets ugly

Rising Tide at Port Metro Vancouver offices
Members of Rising Tide occupied the downtown offices of Port Metro Vancouver this morning. Photos by Murray Bush

Things turned violent when a  handful of members of environmental activist group Rising Tide  arrived at Canada Place this morning dressed as Santa  and walked into Port of Vancouver offices with sacks of coal,reading out comments from those opposed to the ports proposed expansion at Fraser Surrey Docks. The Santas chanted and sang their own version of the 12 Days of Christmas while dozens of port workers looked on. Several port employees tried to detain the Santas and apparently tried to throw them out of the offices and down the stairs. Singing and chanting continued for roughly 15 minutes when the police arrived and the group dispersed. There were at least six police cars at the scene.

Police temporarily detained one member of Rising Tide and one photographer, and several protestors sustained minor injuries, by no one was arrested.

Activist Peter James bore the brunt of the violence as port employees attempted to stop him from speaking. He said no one was expecting such a rough reception.

“I got inside with the megaphone and went in to communicate that we didn’t support the coal port expansion and that we were here to stop it and that we hold the port responsible for furthering global climate change,” he said.

“Then I was pushed by several people down the stairs, and there were very large men in suits trying to take the megaphone from me.” Three men pinned him to the ground and ripped the megaphone out of his hand and broke it.

“We were very outnumbered,” he added.

Rising Tide spokesperson Chandra Tung said the aggressive response reflects the port stance on the issue.

“We think it just goes to highlight how much Port Metro Vancouver is not willing to tolerate opposition to this project.” In spite of the chaos, she said she thinks the message got through.

“We did it because an environmental impact assessment that doesn’t take global climate change into account is a joke, and a community consultation process that involves no public hearings and whose results are not release to the public is illegitimate.”

The port has recently come under fire, first for its flawed environmental and health review process and next when it was reported that the Port Authority hired American pro-coal PR firm Edelman and has been working with pro-coal lobbyists in Washington to push coal over the border and into PMV.

The event happened the day before the Rising Tide campaign Flood the Port. The campaign, scheduled for the last day public comments on the proposed port expansion is open, is a call-out for those concerned about a possible increase in coal exports through the Vancouver port to bombard the port offices with phone calls and emails voicing their opposition.

The Port Authority has not made the official comments public, but several environmental justice organizations in both Canada and the US joined together to create Real Port Hearings, a website where anyone can go and submit comments about the proposal that are all available to the public online.

The Vancouver Observer is currently seeking comments from Port of Vancouver officials on the incident.

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