Climate activists in B.C. say they will shut down bridges in Vancouver and Victoria on Monday.
In Vancouver, organizer Maayan Kreitzman said at least “a few hundred people” will walk onto the Burrard Street Bridge at 8:30 a.m. PT to block most vehicle traffic. Emergency vehicles, transit buses, cyclists and pedestrians will be allowed through.
“We are on purpose breaking laws and social norms to draw attention to … inaction on the climate and ecological crisis,” said Kreitzman, a PhD student at UBC and a Vancouver resident.
In Victoria, organizer Mark Nykanen said dozens of people will gather on the Victoria side of the Johnson Street Bridge at 3:30 p.m. PT to also block traffic in a similar way until 6 p.m.
“Mostly we want people in power to listen and if [people are] inconvenienced we’re really honestly sorry about that but extinction and the kind of impacts of the climate crisis are going to be a huge inconvenience,” he said.
Both Kreitzman and Nykanen are members of the protest group called Extinction Rebellion or XR.
What is Extinction Rebellion?
The group was founded in the UK in October 2018 with the goal of using civil disobedience and non-violent resistance to force government action on climate change, protections for biodiversity and preventing ecological collapse.
Over the past year, it has staged protests in London that at times brought the city to a standstill. In April, 120 people were arrested there after blocking transportation routes.
On Monday, Extinction Rebellion is expected to hold similar protests around the world, including other Canadian cities such as Halifax and Toronto.
What are police doing?
Police in both Vancouver and Victoria say they are aware of the protests and will monitor them to ensure public safety. Both agencies are telling residents to expect delays and that they will provide updates through their social media accounts.
We are aware of the planned demonstration tomorrow on the Johnson Street Bridge. With any public demonstration and protest, our focus will be on ensuring public safety. Expect traffic delays in the area. Follow us on Twitter for updates <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/yyjtraffic?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#yyjtraffic</a>
There are still several unknowns about the protests aside from how many people will show up.
The event in Vancouver will begin with an opening ceremony by a member of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, a local first nation. Kreitzman says there will also be musical performances, art, drumming and speeches on the bridge.
She would not say what side of the bridge protesters will access or how emergency vehicles and transit buses will be allowed to pass.
Both groups in Vancouver and Victoria say they are working with local police and authorities.
Extinction Rebellion has three main goals: to have government’s communicate and act with urgency around climate change and engage citizens through an assembly that will determine policies needed to slow and stop climate change.
It also wants to halt the loss of biodiversity and reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025. That is 25 years sooner than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is asking for.
David Tindall, a sociology professor at UBC who studies social movements says the bridge protests that Extinction Rebellion is trying to pull off can be unpredictable in their outcomes.
In the short term, the inconvenience of them for citizens can have a polarizing effect, but over the long term, more radical actions can force governments to negotiate more readily with moderate environmental groups.
He says that the main decision maker on climate issues, the federal government, may feel less pressure to act because the bridges being disrupted are far removed from Ottawa’s attention.