VICTORIA – Crowds of anti-pipeline protesters successfully stopped provincial politicians from restarting the legislature for its spring session Tuesday by physically blockading the entrances to the capital building.
MLAs had been set to meet at 10 a.m. to prorogue the fourth session of the 41st parliament in advance of the start of a new session at 2 p.m. and the speech from the throne by Lieut.-Gov. Janet Austin.
That was cancelled and rescheduled for later this afternoon, due to several MLAs and staff unable to enter the building. It was unclear if Austin herself was even able to enter.
“What the protesters are trying to do is to get their point across, and part of that is obviously trying to disrupt the proceedings and the work here in this building,” said Public Safety Minister and government house leader Mike Farnworth.
“But I can tell you that we are continuing the day’s work.”
Farnworth said more than 30 NDP MLAs from the 41-person caucus managed to make it in to the building, though some clearly did not.
“Certainly it’s our intention for the session and the throne speech to be read,” said Farnworth.
Opposition Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson posted on social media that it was important to preserve safety at the building during the protest.
“While peaceful protest is part of our democracy, the safety, security and function of the legislature is essential so we can do our work for B.C.,” he tweeted. “We look forward to an orderly conclusion to the current blockade of the legislature and essential infrastructure throughout B.C.”
Protesters in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs against a natural gas Coastal GasLink pipeline in northwest set about physically confronting people who wanted to enter or exit the legislative building early Tuesday morning.
Similar demonstrations have occurred in recent days on highways in Victoria and Vancouver, as well as at Vancouver’s port.
Several MLAs, including Agriculture Minister Lana Popham, Jennifer Rice and Janet Routledge, were unable to enter the building from the usual side entrance, as dozens of protesters, some beating drums, yelled “shame” at passersby and linked arms to physically prevent passage into the building.
Education Minister Rob Fleming had to be pulled through a crowd by security. Protesters also blockaded the media from entering or exiting the building, in some cases physically pushing back against journalists. Staff who ran the gauntlet were screamed at by the crowd.
The crowd yelled “Fight back!” and chanted “UNDRIP.” At the front of the building, hundreds of protesters had built a fire, tents and gathered on the ceremonial front steps.