By: The Working Forest Staff
TIMES COLONIST — When a court injunction stopping them from blocking old-growth logging near Fairy Creek expired Tuesday, protesters celebrated as RCMP officers packed up their tents and left the area.
They didn’t see any officers overnight, which they often did during enforcement of the injunction, which has led to more than 1,000 arrests over four months.
The next day, however, the battle continued.
After the court turned down its request to extend an injunction to prevent people from obstructing its logging operations, Surrey-based forestry company Teal Jones Group used an excavator to dig trenches in a logging road, blocking vehicle access. Protesters quickly attempted to fill in the trenches.
Tensions flared between workers and protesters when someone climbed on top of an excavator. A small altercation ensued, and police were called.
Then on Friday, three more people were arrested for blocking industry workers from using forestry roads.
RCMP said in a statement they are also investigating an incident in which tree planters had their vehicles searched by a group and their access delayed, before deciding to leave the area.
In denying the company’s application to extend the injunction, Justice Douglas Thompson had cited “serious and substantial infringement of civil liberties” by police enforcing the injunction, saying police methods were damaging to the court’s reputation, which outweighed the economic interests of the company.
Teal Jones said in a statement that the trench the company dug this week was on an unsanctioned road created around a gate.
“It is not a public road and could be unsafe. Teal Jones has a responsibility to maintain access to public roads in the area and the safety of those roads. Teal Jones has also been filling in numerous trenches dug across public roads by the activists,” the company said.
Protesters disagree, saying it was a public logging road.
Luke Wallace, the spokesman for protest group Rainforest Flying Squad, acknowledged protesters have been digging trenches on logging roads, but he defended the practice as a last resort to protect the trees from falling.
Since the end of the injunction, protesters have been able to re-establish many camps, Wallace said.
“The movement has once again expanded, I would argue, almost back to its state that it was in previous to enforcement starting in May,” he said.
Posts and videos circulated online Thursday claiming people in Ditidaht First Nation territory on the west coast of the Island were not able to leave their community by vehicle, because their main access road flooded and emergency access roads were blocked by gates or trenches.
The nation’s chief did not respond to calls and emails about the situation.
Teal Jones said gates on logging roads “remain closed and locked, but we are ensuring local First Nations have access. Where needed we are manning the gates to ensure that access.”
The company also said one of its gates had been vandalized with construction foam in the locking mechanism that kept it closed. It repaired the gate when it learned of the vandalism, Teal Jones said.
The company has filed an appeal of the decision to end the injunction, arguing the judge’s finding that the court’s reputation was being damaged by RCMP methods of enforcement was not supported by evidence, and insufficient weight was given to the harm suffered by Teal Jones.
An all-day sit-in at the legislature is planned for Monday when the fall session is set to begin in person. Organizers say they intend to put pressure on the province to bring in old-growth logging deferrals.
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