Saturday marked a new level of resistance in the protests against Kinder Morgan, as twenty eight people from varied walks of life blocked the gates to the Kinder Morgan tank farm facility in Burnaby. Defying a court injunction to stay 5 metres from the facility’s property line, they sat on the roadway at Kinder Morgan’s entrance, singing and chanting, before being arrested one by one by the RCMP.
The day was cool and sunny, and there was an air of seriousness as people gathered beforehand in the nearby soccer field to be briefed on nonviolent blockading. After the briefing, I approached Jeanette Paisley, 76, and Tracey Carlisle, 53 — a mother and daughter — as they sat on the soccer bleachers, eating cheese and peanut butter sandwiches. Tracey is a costume designer for films in Vancouver. Both she and her mother came to the large Indigenous-led protest on Burnaby Mountain on March 10, during which a traditional Watch House was built of red cedar, on a wooded trail near Kinder Morgan’s gates.
“We saw Indigenous people doing so much. It was invigorating,” Tracey said. “So I signed up. Actually it was my Mum’s idea.”
I turned to Jeanette, a retired Montessori instructor. She was wearing an attractive pair of plaid pants, and a denim jacket over a pink sweater. “I’ve been a law abiding citizen, all my life,” she said. “I’ve rarely had a parking ticket.”
And would she get arrested?
“I’m a little apprehensive,” she admitted. “I’ve never been inside a jail before, not even close. I fear the unknown."
“Welcome to the Wild Side, Mama,” her daughter quipped.
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At ten o’clock the group of twenty-eight blockaders, flanked by about fifty supporters, formed a procession to the Watch House and were greeted by Will George, the Tsleil Waututh guardian of the Watch House. The group received a traditional blessing in the Skwxwxu7mesh (Squamish) language, from Ocean Hyland, a young Tsleil Waututh woman.
“I raise my hands to you,” she translated, “and I pray you are watched over in a kind and gentle way.” She then sprinkled cedar on the path for the blockaders.
As we walked toward the Kinder Morgan gates, I noticed ball caps on grey heads, bike helmets attached to knap sacks. There was an elderly South Asian man on crutches, and my old high school friend, Gillian Johnstone, an artist on the North Shore, holding up one end of a large banner, beside her husband, Charlie Campbell, a film set builder and carpenter. They were there with their three grown daughters.
I noted that it was a family affair, and Emma, their eldest daughter smiled and nodded: “My husband is going to be arrested next week,” she said. “We’re taking turns because of the baby.”
At the gate, the protestors sat on the roadway, and Clayton Thomas-Muller, the Cree blockade leader, led people in song. There was a Saturday picnic atmosphere, but undercut with seriousness. At the front, patiently waiting, sat Belle Gee, 57, a Metis grandmother from the Sunshine Coast. She had slept in her car the night before, so as not to miss the action, despite the fact that her spine was seriously injured in a car accident three years ago, and now holds twenty screws and three rods along the spinal cord. “I’m in pain most of the time,” she said softly.
Beside her sat Tim Bray, a software engineer with Amazon, and next to him sat Korry Zepik, a solar panel installer from Vernon. Near the back were three young people, Nati Vilner, a graduate from Port Moody Secondary, Alexis Cowan, a young winery worker, from Vernon, and Gareth Rowbotham, 21, a McDonald’s employee.
I looked around for Jeanette, the Montessori instructor. She was against the fence, sitting on a folding chair. She shot me a smile and pointed to her arm. Along with half a dozen others, she’d locked herself to the fence with a plastic zip strap. “I’m perfectly comfy,” she reassured me.
Fifteen minutes later, a dozen RCMP swarmed up the hill in bright yellow jackets. They arrested protesters one by one. RCMP photographed and processed the group in a temporary way station three hundred yards down the road. None were jailed. All were charged with Civil Contempt and must appear in court on June 6th.
After the arrests, I caught up with Tracey Carlisle on a sunny patch of grass. She was waiting for her mother, who’d just been lead away by the police. One of the organizers was leading the crowd in singing, my friends, you do not walk alone.
“I’m so proud of her, “Tracey said. “Who wouldn’t be? She chained herself to the fence!” she paused, then added: You know, she’s always been a good Mum.”