Indigenous rights protesters leave Vancouver's Granville Bridge after hours-long shutdown

The ongoing anti-pipeline protests across Metro Vancouver are raising questions about whether police should be doing more to dismantle them. Aaron McArthur reports.

Protesters supporting Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs blockaded Vancouver’s Granville Street Bridge for hours on Wednesday.

After occupying the intersection of Cambie Street and Broadway for more than 16 hours, protesters packed up early Wednesday morning before reappearing outside the B.C. Supreme Court at 10 a.m., then marching through the city’s core.

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Shortly before 1 p.m., they occupied the bridge, where they remained until roughly 3:30 p.m. Vancouver police confirmed shortly after 4 p.m. that the bridge was reopened in both directions.

Protesters also took over the Burrard Street Bridge, but have since left that area as well.

Protesters say they plan to reconvene at Kitsilano Beach at 9 a.m. Thursday to plan a new round of traffic disruptions.

“For me, as an Indigenous person, Indigenous rights are crucial and what’s happening to the Wet’suwet’en people right now is unacceptable,” one demonstrator told Global News. “I believe that in the Wet’suwet’en territory it is Wet’suwet’en law that does stand, it’s the only law that matters.

“We have a really complicated problem with unceded land here in British Columbia, it’s unceded, there has never been any kind of agreement,” said another marcher.

“The hereditary chiefs are saying, ‘No, not on our land, this land is unceded,’ and I’m here for that.”

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Vancouver police have to this point refused to clear demonstrators from the street, but issued a statement Monday with a terser tone than previous messaging.

“We acknowledge that over the past week these protests have caused many disruptions to the public,” said Const. Tania Visintin.

“Officers will continue to reduce the impact that the protests have on local businesses, traffic and the public the best way they can.”

Visintin said police were monitoring the protest, and their response would be “appropriate and proportionate to the activities observed that jeopardize public safety and negatively impact those who live, work, and visit the area.”

The stop outside the courthouse came as demonstrators planned to file a legal challenge of a Port of Vancouver injunction that allowed police to clear protesters who were blocking several access points to the facility on Monday.

Vancouver police arrested 43 people at that event.

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About 200 people had gathered at the intersection just before the Tuesday rush hour to express support for Indigenous rights and title and back Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

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The group rejects the label of “protesters,” and instead describes themselves as land and water protectors.

Numbers dwindled throughout the night, but the intersection remained blocked until around 6:30 a.m. when the final 60 or so demonstrators packed up.

Indigenous rights protesters block the intersection of Cambie Street and Broadway on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020.Tuesday’s blockade at Cambie and Broadway caused commuter chaos, and resulted in the VPD using motorcycles to escort emergency vehicles to the nearby Vancouver General Hospital.

It was one of dozens of demonstrations that have sprung up across B.C. and Canada in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in their battle with the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

The pipeline company has signed agreements with 20 elected Indigenous councils along the route, but hereditary chiefs say those councils only have authority over matters on First Nations reserves, while they retain authority over land that was never settled with a treaty.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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