Wet’suwet’en supporters set up in the early hours of Monday morning, blocking off Highway 19 exits and entrances in the Comox Valley area.
The north exit at Exit 117 to the Comox Valley and the south entrance to the highway were closed off. A group of about 25 activists had spread out to block off areas earlier, leaving the stretch of highway abandoned. RCMP members were on the scene to monitor the situation, while road crews blocked off lanes to the entrance below the overpass.
“We took the highway 12 o’clock Sunday night, and we’ve been holding it since,” the group’s local liaison, Kiyoshi Kosky, said Monday morning.
Rallies and protests of the RCMP’s handling of Wet’suwet’en members protesting Coastal GasLink pipeline plans in the traditional Wet’suwet’en territory of northeast B.C. have increased around the province in recent days.
“The purpose is for us is to be here and be in solidarity with the Indigenous youth that are currently locked down in the legislature, which are then in support of the Wet’suwet’en Nation – in support of their constitutional rights, their human rights and their unceded rights under Canadian law that are being violated and broken,” Kosky said.
However, the local situation between the police and the activists on Monday was calm, as Kosky said they want to ensure both the safety of the general public traveling in their vehicles and their land and water protection allies.
“We have been appreciative in how the RCMP have conducted themselves,” he said.
As of late Monday morning, it was still unclear how long the route might be blocked. Kosky said that as of that moment, the RCMP in northeast B.C. was using a sound cannon against unarmed Wet’suwet’en people and blocking their movement.
“It’s up to civil society to say, ‘That’s not OK,’” he said. “The government is acting as a police state against its own people, and nowhere in civil society should that ever be OK.”
He emphasized that because First Nations had not signed away their rights through a treaty, the authorities have no right to remove them from protests. The group hopes the public, as a takeaway from the highway closure, will educate itself about the environmental and Indigenous issues at the heart of the dispute.
The Record has called the RCMP for comment about the highway closure, but has yet to hear back.