Old growth logging protesters blocked Columbia Avenue in the heart of Castlegar’s downtown district over the weekend. Protesters arrived Saturday afternoon in front of City Hall and the Castlegar RCMP detachment and stayed in place for 24 hours.
The protesters used tents, an RV and vehicles to block the road. At times there were as many as 50 people occupying the site.
Although the City of Castlegar, RCMP and emergency services were notified of the protest ahead of time, an event permit was not requested or issued.
Castlegar Mayor Kirk Duff says the city consulted with police once they were made aware of the event.
“We determined it was likely going to happen, whether we wanted it to or not,” said Duff. “At that point our focus was purely on public safety.”
The city contracted a third-party company to set up barricades around the site and control traffic around a detour. They also set up port-a-potties on the City Hall lawn.
“We are not taking any sides on this,” said Duff. “This is an issue between the Minister of Forests, the protesters and the RCMP.”
RCMP Sgt. Monty Taylor said public safety was also top of mind for police as they balanced compliance of the current provincial health order with peoples’ right to protest.
“The primary concern of police was public safety, police officer safety, and the preservation of the right to peaceful, lawful and safe protest,” said Taylor.
A similar protest was held May 31 and four people were arrested for refusing to leave the road.
“For the people that were inconvenienced by the demonstrators, on behalf of the city, I am sorry for that inconvenience, but we did what we could to protect the public,” added Duff.
Police report a 51-year-old Nelson resident, believed to be one of the event’s organizers, was issued a violation ticket for a Motor Vehicle Act-related offence.
The event was planned by Extinction Rebellion and according to organizers the occupation was led by high school students, college students, small business owners and retired farmers from Castlegar, Nelson, and several surrounding communities, including Slocan, Kaslo, and New Denver.
The group’s demands include ending old growth logging, ending clear cutting, amnesty for all those arrested in B.C. related to Fairy Creek, West Kootenay MLA and forest minister Katrine Conroy resigning, and real climate action to reduce greenhouse gases to net zero by 2025.