Romain Ouellet, front, and other old-growth logging protesters rally along Fitzwilliam Street in front of the Nanaimo RCMP detachment on Tuesday, May 25. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

Romain Ouellet, front, and other old-growth logging protesters rally along Fitzwilliam Street in front of the Nanaimo RCMP detachment on Tuesday, May 25. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

Protesters in Nanaimo ask RCMP to stand down from south Island forest blockades

More than 50 protesters have been arrested near Lake Cowichan and Port Renfrew

Old-growth logging opponents demonstrated in front of the Nanaimo RCMP detachment today, asking Mounties to stand down from enforcing an injunction against protesters on the south Island.

More than 50 people have been arrested near Lake Cowichan and Port Renfrew over the past seven days as RCMP have enforced a B.C. Supreme Court civil injunction prohibiting protesters from interfering with Teal-Cedar Products’ forestry operations in the Fairy Creek watershed.

The rally at the corner of Prideaux and Fitzwilliam streets on Tuesday, May 25, organized by Extinction Rebellion Nanaimo, attracted about 30 people. The protesters delivered a letter to Nanaimo RCMP asking them to “stand down, halt arrests of peaceful land defenders” and allow an appeal of the injunction decision to make its way through the courts.

“We would like to see the police treating everybody equally…” said Leah Morgan, a coordinator with Extinction Rebellion. “My goal is to get the RCMP to treat us as peaceful protesters, not criminals.”

Laura Jesson spent two nights at Eden camp on the south Island this past weekend. She said people should “have our free choice to be on land and to speak our truth” and added that the protesters there are being safe.

“The RCMP right now are bringing a lot of their force in, their manpower and the way I see it, they’re putting their energy toward supporting the loggers, but more specifically, they’re putting it toward taking away peaceful protesters,” Jesson said.

She added that protesters do want people to be arrested at the blockades.

“Because then the numbers build and build. This is how Clayoquot Sound was won in ’93 and ’94, because 900 people were arrested over the two summers. That’s part of the movement,” Jesson said. “The more people stand up like this and say this is not OK, at some point we just hope they back down … There’s always going to be people standing up. We know that we will win.”

She and Morgan said asking for a stop to old-growth logging isn’t meant to take away forestry jobs on Vancouver Island.

“We’re here defending the last one per cent of a critical part of our life-support system,” Morgan said. “The 14 forest review panel recommendations lay out a plan for sustainable forestry but it requires the old-growth. We need the mother trees, the ancient trees.”

The protesters in Nanaimo on Tuesday rallied on the front steps of the RCMP detachment, then waved signs along the street.

A B.C. RCMP press release last week detailed its plans to enforce the civil injunction and set up an “access control area” meant to “prevent a further escalation of efforts to block access contrary to the Supreme court order.” RCMP added that their primary concerns are public safety, police officer safety, and preservation of people’s right to peacefully protest within the terms of the injunction.

READ ALSO: Arrests resume at logging protest camps on Vancouver Island

READ ALSO: RCMP enforce injunction at Fairy Creek logging blockade near Port Renfrew

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