Protesters occupy New West street in solidarity with tree protester

Dr. Tim Takaro is occupying several trees in the Brunette River area, near the borders of Coquitlam, Burnaby and New Westminster to protest the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

Around 80 or 90 protesters gathered under the hot summer sun on Wednesday to block a section of road bordering New Westminster and Coquitlam in solidarity with an anti-pipeline protester occupying several trees in the area.

The group, organized by climate activists Extinction Rebellion, gathered at Lower Hume Park in New West at around noon, taking the opportunity to speak to the media before walking out to East Columbia Street.

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There, the crowd occupied the northbound lanes of the road between Hume Park and New Westminster’s border with Coquitlam, where the street turns into North Road. The space is right along the Brunette River conservation area, where Dr. Tim Takaro, a physician and public health professor at SFU, has taken up camp in some trees.

Takaro is protesting the Trans Mountain expansion, which will add a new pipeline along largely the same route as the existing line. One area where the new pipeline veers off the current course, however, runs along the Brunette River, a conservation area.

Among the protesters were six representing Extinction Rebellion’s Red Brigade. The brigade is a more theatrical element in Extinction Rebellion’s protests. The group shows up in red and black garb, veils not unlike ones you would see at a funeral and pale white face paint. The show is intended to convey the magnitude of the climate crisis.

While blocking the road, protesters urged one another to make room for cars to turn around and to get into the park. Some drivers were seen pulling erratic 180s, cutting off other drivers in their effort to turn around, sometimes with squealing tires.

Organizers also regularly reminded protesters to keep a distance of six feet between one another. Nearly all protesters were seen wearing masks.

Will George, a member of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Protect The Inlet, told reporters he was there to protect the water in his nation’s territory.

“One of those threats I’d like to share is increased tanker traffic by 700%. Those are our spiritual highways; that’s how we got around. Ninety per cent of our diet came from that body of water,” George said.

Janice Oakley, one of the event’s organizers, said while there haven’t been as many pipeline protests this year – perhaps in large part due to the coronavirus pandemic – she does expect to see that ramping up again.

“Absolutely. All over this region, there are these windows of construction (on the pipeline), where devastation is going to happen. They’re cutting down trees; they’re messing with salmon streams. And we know how many people care about this issue,” she said.

In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN body that studies the issue, released a report that said the world has 12 years to reduce carbon emissions by 45% and until 2050 to become carbon neutral, or else face irreversible impacts of climate change.

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