Interchange Overkill: Tree Sit Busted Hard

Thu, 14 Feb 2008

Westshore RCMP and a municipal enforcement officer lead away activist Ingmar Lee and attempt to move another protester, who identified himself to media as Carl Stevens. Both were blocking a truck from entering the site of a controversial interchange development. Photo: Ray Smith, Victoria Times Colonist

Here is the bad news: Everyone in the tree sit camp was arrested today. Three people, including two tree sitters, are being held with charges pending. They may be released tomorrow. Everyone else was released without charge.

The massive attack by police had as many as 70 RCMP officers, dozens of them with assault rifles drawn and pointed at the campers, surrounding the camp before dawn.

The area is sealed off by police tape and RCMP patrols. Heavy equipment was moved in and the destruction has begun. From Leigh Road, we could see trees falling to a feller buncher – a giant tree cutting machine.

We also saw welding equipment being moved in behind police lines. It’s possible that one of the first acts of destruction today was welding shut the entrance of the Langford Lake Cave.

Here is the good news: It is not over yet. This act has outraged the community and people will not give up resisting this hideous development. We have arranged for top-notch legal representation for our defendants. They are heroes.

RCMP move in on anti-highway protest site

Bill Cleverley, Times Colonist

LANGFORD – In the false light of a pre-dawn Wednesday more than three dozen RCMP officers – some dressed in riot gear and carrying assault rifles – surrounded and rousted about a half dozen protesters from their camp in the woods between the Trans-Canada Highway and Leigh Road in Langford.

Some, told they’d be charged with mischief in they didn’t vacate, agreed to move. They were cuffed and moved out to Goldstream Avenue where they were released.

At least one and perhaps as many as three protesters, however, remained in their tree-top platforms while police blocked media and other access to the woods – stringing yellow tape along the highway and erecting saw-horse barricade at Leigh Road and Goldstream.

Protesters said people dressed in climbing gear were among those who stormed the protest camp, erected last April in opposition to the $32-million Bear Mountain interchange proposed by Langford.

They say the interchange not only feeds urban sprawl but threatens Spencer’s Pond, a cave and other karst features and an urban forest complete with culturally modified trees.

Protest organizer Ingmar Lee was arrested after he attempted to block a piece of logging equipment from entering the area.

Tree-sitter Kalanu Johnson, 34, decided to come down from a tree after an armed officer approached. “When I refused to come down I noticed one of the SWAT team guys closest to me was fiddling with his assault rifle and I got intimidated. When I asked them what all the weapons were for they just said they were police and they carried weapons,” Johnson said.

He estimated 50 to 60 police, equipped with a dog and a mobile command centre, accompanied by construction crews and equipment including a back-hoe and a feller buncher were involved in the raid.

“Just as the sun was about to come up they moved in and sort of spread out around the kitchen and up the hill surrounding the camp. After about 10 minutes there were about a dozen of them at the foot of the tree with assault rifles and beanbag shotguns and that sort of thing.”

Johnson who has been at the protest for about seven months said it’s been worth it.

“This is wrong on so many levels. People need to stand up against it whether we can stop it or not. People need to resist.”

Leena McGinn, 24, who has been at the protest off and on since the summer, was asleep in a teepee with her boyfriend when the raid happened.

“There were a lot of them. There was a whole SWAT team. They asked us to co-operate and we agreed. We were tired. We were cranky. They hand-cuffed us immediately.

“We asked if we were under arrest and they said: ‘No.’ They were detaining us.”

They agreed not to come back to the area and they were not charged with anything.

RCMP Const. Tasha Adams said police were acting on a complaint from the city of Langford of illegal camping.

She would not say how many police were involved but said the number was “significant obviously to ensure public safety; police officer safety.”

“Police moved in response to a complaint from the city of Langford – the complaint being an illegal campsite on their property. So the police moved in to ask those individuals on the site to vacate the land.”

Langford administrator Rob Buchan said the city filed its complaint with the RCMP after finalizing paperwork acquiring the last piece of land it needs for the interchange.

City contractors began work on the interchange on the north side of the highway even as the protesters were being removed from their camp deep on the other side.

“As soon as the site has been completely cleared, we’re beginning (work there as well).”

Buchan said there was no reason for the municipality to get a court injunction to remove the protesters.

“We’ve been trying to get access to do things on our property, property that we had a right to be on, for some time but we’ve been continually frustrated by the protesters,” he said.

“Yesterday we received the final bit of tenure for the last bit of land we needed to be an occupier for the entire property and that was sufficient for the RCMP to say: ‘You have the right to be on the land. They don’t. We can remove the protesters.’ “

Watch the video – part one is a news broadcast, part two is an interview with Saanich hereditary chief Eric Pelkey.


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