Activists hang from pier at Port of Vancouver, 5 arrested


Protesters were trying to block a ship carrying pipeline material

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Five activists were arrested Tuesday while blocking a shipment of pipeline meant for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project.

The activists climbed up and chained themselves to the dock where the shipment was to be loaded off of to prevent the pipes from making it to their final destination in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Twenty-five “kayaktivists” were in the surrounding water, rallying behind the climbers to stop this project they say “is jeopardizing a livable future for everyone on this planet.”

Activists blockade ship carrying TMX pipeline equipment at the Port of Vancouver on Nov. 5, 2019. (Courtesy: Alex Milan Tracy)

The Coast Guard was enforcing a 200-yard safety zone around Berth 9. Vancouver police officers said they arrested 5 people accused of blocking traffic.

“Activists have the right to peacefully protest on the river as long as they are not impeding vessel movement,” said Capt. Gretchen Bailey, deputy commander of Coast Guard Sector Columbia River and Acting Captain of the Port.

The arrested activists face charges of criminal trespassing, failure to disperse and obstruction.

Will Watson, who works with both Mosquito Fleet and Rising Tide Portland, talked to KOIN 6 News on behalf of the activists. He said the act of civil disobedience was an example of a local environmental group acting globally to send a message to Canada’s prime minister.

“This is not just Canada’s problem. This is a problem with the climate​,” said Watson. “There are much smarter people than me who are saying if all that tar sands oil ​comes out of the ground, it will be game-over for the climate — and that will​​ impact everybody.

This is the third step in a series of actions that target the Port for transporting what the activists call “dangerous” fossil fuel infrastructure. Back in September, it was activists that first broke the news of these shipments being imported to the Port, which they later ended up blocking.

“We didn’t want to do this. Nobody wants to get out at 2 in the morning in a freezing kayak,” said Watson. “We’re doing this because we think it’s important and we feel that​​ this kind of action is the only chance we have to respond ​to the climate crisis.”

The Portland Rising Tide and the Mosquito Fleet were the primary organizers in this protest.

“I’m here because tar sands crude transported by the Trans Mountain Expansion project would require three times more water for extracting and refining and would release 15% more greenhouse gas per gallon of gasoline when compared with conventional oil,” said Rachel Walsh of Portland Rising Tide.

This is all a part of a larger fight against the TMX project where activists work with other groups along the West Coast and Canada in order to pressure Governor Jay Inslee, Prime Minister Trudeau and the Port of Vancouver — each of who activists call “complicit.”

“We are also taking action in solidarity with Fort McKay First Nations who are suing the Alberta government because tar sands expansion threatens sacred land that the government promised to protect,” said Walsh.

Indigenous communities in the region are opposed to the pipeline project which could threaten local waters, lands and treaty rights — not to mention the risk of an oil spill.

The ship was still unable to dock by 11 a.m.

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