It all started with a press conference. Under a driving rain, a succession of local Indigenous leaders, mountain defenders and activists, including the passionate grandson of David Suzuki, Tamo Campos, denounced the pipeline and invoked the need for civil disobedience.
Then came Lynne. I asked an organizer if I had her name spelled right before my first tweet. I’m glad I did, because I used it a lot.
Dr. Lynne Quarmby is chair of Simon Fraser University’s department of molecular biology and biochemistry. She is one of the Kinder Morgan Five, subjects of a strategic lawsuit against public participation, often referred to as a SLAPP suit, from the Texas-based oil and pipeline company. Famously, lawyers alleged the protesters had assaulted Kinder Morgan workers with unpleasant facial expressions.
As Dr. Quarmby articulated a vision of herself as a fully engaged citizen — a participant in her democracy and her community, pushed by intolerable circumstances to civil disobedience, the most extreme act of dissent one can take while remaining within the rule of law — it became clear why Kinder Morgan is so afraid of the diminutive academic.
Having laid the intellectual foundation for her act of disobedience, Dr. Quarmby uttered words that defined the day, and perhaps the entire incipient movement against pipelines: "I'm going to turn around, and walk up this hill, and I'm going to be the best citizen I can be."
Striding up the mountain towards a police line buried deep within the woods, she was joined by a handful of other activists willing to provoke arrest as an act of civil disobedience. One of them was Kevin Washbrook, from Voters Taking Action against Climate Change.
At the top of the hill the group of determined activists came nose to nose with the police line. A senior officer emerged and informed Dr. Quarmby and those in her company that they were in violation of an injunction and subject to arrest. Quarmby responded that she knew that and planned to violate the injunction. The officer asked if her intent was to be arrested, and she confirmed it was. The whole thing was shockingly civil compared to the interactions between cops and protesters I’m used to in Montreal.
After several unsuccessful attempts to cross the police line without physically touching any police officers, Dr. Quarmby finally breached the line and was taken into custody, followed shortly thereafter by several others, including Washbrook and local activists Ruth Walmsley and Brad Hornick.
As they waited to be cuffed and loaded into a paddy wagon, the arrestees were in good spirits. A call of “I love you, I’ll be back!” from within the police vehicle was met with replies of “Thank you!” from the crowd.
Ricochet confirmed with RCMP commanders that seven arrests were made shortly before noon on Friday, with unconfirmed reports of more having taken place later in the day. The RCMP announced that 34 people have been arrested on Burnaby Mountain in the last two days, all for practicing non-violent civil disobedience.
Protesters vow to return each day, saying they will continue to provoke arrest by blocking the path of testing crews until Kinder Morgan leaves the area.
The company has said it has only seven to ten days of geo-technical survey work to do to meet the requirements of the National Energy Board, but despite the court injunction and its robust enforcement, it remains unclear whether that work will be completed.
On Friday morning, as Quarmby and others were being arrested atop the hill, a separate group of protesters twice blocked trucks belonging to a Kinder Morgan crew, forcing them to turn back.
As a robust, if water-logged, movement was serving notice that western pipelines will not pass on Burnaby Mountain, the premiers of Quebec and Ontario were announcing a common front to the east, jointly laying down seven conditions for approval of the Energy East pipeline, including an assessment of climate effects. The agreement comes on the heels of a poll showing a full two-thirds of Quebecers oppose Energy East.
So save some pity for an old-school Texas oilman named Richard Kinder. It’s been a tough week to be in the tar sands business.