This Article is part of the Tar Sands Reporting Project special report See the full report

Arrests rise to 53 on Burnaby Mountain, including author J.B. MacKinnon

RCMP confirm 53 arrests so far of people protesting Kinder Morgan's plan to push a tar sands pipeline through Burnaby Mountain.

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Sut-lut, a Sḵwx̱ú7mesh elder who started the sacred fire at the original protest camp, came down from where it is still burning within the injunction zone and invited two protesters to join her around its warmth. They accompanied Sut-lut back to the sacred fire, and despite the fact that the two protesters crossed the injunction boundary to do so, their progress was unimpeded by watchful RCMP officers. 

After a number of impassioned speeches a brief, tense moment of anticipation descended on the crowd at the edge of the drilling site. Then J.B. MacKinnon and author and ecologist Dr. Alejandro Frid crossed over the line and into the injunction zone to uproarious applause from the crowd of protesters. They were immediately taken into custody by the awaiting police officers, but their bold move was the signal for other protesters to take the same stand. Soon there was a surge of people crossing into the drilling site.

Early estimates suggest that at least sixteen people have been arrested and are currently being processed. Around 11.30am a police vehicle carrying a number of the arrested protesters departed from the scene. The situation is currently calm and peaceful, with a large number of protesters continuing to congregate on the margins of the injunction boundary and at the police line. Protesters remain resolute and determined. Intermittent songs and chants enliven a scene where the police presence remains high and the hum of the Kinder Morgan drill is omnipresent.

Kinder Morgan is currently conducting the geological survey work necessary to twin the existing Trans Mountain pipeline and run a second pipeline through Burnaby Mountain. The project has sparked heavy citizen opposition as its intent is to carry 890,000 barrels of diluted bitumen from Alberta's tar sands through Burnaby per day, and oil tanker traffic through Burrard Inlet is expected to increase six to seven-fold if the pipeline is built.

In a move that galvanized community opposition, Kinder Morgan cut trees in the Burnaby Mountain conservation area without permission from the city in September. Citizens have held vigil on the mountain ever since to prevent the company from further work, although Kinder Morgan's workers have now won an injunction against protesters and have begun working twenty-four hours a day to complete preparatory survey work as soon as possible.

Kevin Washbrook, Director at Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, was present this evening at the RCMP detachment office in Burnaby in order to support those arrested. Washbrook provided the Vancouver Observer with an update on the situation.

"Sixteen people have been arrested today in total. They have all been charged with civil contempt and are all in processing right now. The RCMP have not yet said whether they will be released or retained in custody."

Washbrook said he believed, however, that the protesters would be released within the next few hours. None of the sixteen individuals arrested today have had an opportunity to communicate with supporters.

When asked about how events would unfold in the coming days Washbrook suggested it was "hard to say" but that the mood today "was really, really powerful on the hill."

"The spirit was incredible. There were families and there were little kids, and it was this positive thing with spoken word and singing. People are moved by this."

"There's talk of people going up tomorrow. It's snowballing. There's momentum and people are so frustrated that they are finding this really inspiring. I would guess this is going to continue. The arrests are a symbolic statement of people's frustration with the NEB and the process and this whole bogus operation. It makes me wonder if Kinder Morgan sees what's going on now — the level of frustration over drilling a few holes for survey work — just imagine what will happen if they start actually trying to build a pipeline."

Washbrook himself was arrested yesterday on Burnaby Mountain.

The RCMP briefing that took place at the Burnaby detachment office noted that three people were arrested over the course of the night on the 21st of September: one for assault for spitting at a police officer, the second for obstruction for interfering with the first arrest, and the third for contempt of court.

The first two have now been released from holding, though the third person arrested for contempt of court has not yet been released because he will not provide his name and will be going before a judge tomorrow morning.

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