This is an eyewitness report from the NowPublic member WestCoast TreeHugger who was on the scene.
Activists Join Climate Change Day by Blocking Highway Preparation
SURREY, BC - Concerned citizens from both sides of the Fraser River participated in protesting the demolition of a large house in Surrey’s Bridgeview neighbourhood this morning.
The non-violent act of civil disobedience is taking place as part of a day of direct action drawing attention to activities that cause climate change in various cities throughout North America. The house in Surrey is in the way of preparatory work for the South Fraser Perimeter (SFPR) Highway, part of the provincial government's controversial Gateway project.Ministry officials plan to lay pre-load sand throughout the neighbourhood so in a couple years the area will be ready for pavement.
“Kevin Falcon's Gateway Project is threatening to destroy this community, and outdated freeway projects like this are destroying our planet,” said Tom Jaugelis, a local resident and spokesperson for the group. “They're wasting billions of our tax dollars on this gateway to global warming that won’t even fix our congestion problems. They should be building housing, and investing in other green jobs like the public transit that Surrey needs right now.”
Today in Washington DC a national coalition of more than 40 environmental, public health, labor, social justice, faithbased and other advocacy groups plans to engage in what is expected to be the largest mass mobilization on global warming in the history of the US. NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists is taking part in the civil disobedience.
The action in Washington is happening at a coal burning plant. In many parts of the US coal plants are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Here in Metro Vancouver vehicles are the largest source of these emissions, making up 36% of BC’s overall emissions. According to a report by the Livable Region Coalition the gateway project will increase carbon emissions by 30%.
The house in Surrey where the BC action is taking place which is located at 124 St and 116 Ave is the last still standing in Bridgeview on the proposed route of the SFPR. The working family neighbourhood was targeted early by the Gateway project, forcing many residents with deep roots in the community to leave.
Bernadette Keenan, who sits on the Board of the Bridgeview Community Association, says “The Port Mann/Highway 1 public-private partnership just collapsed, and this South Fraser Freeway does not even have a preferred bidder yet, so these projects are obviously a bad investment – economically as well as environmentally. The provincial government should cancel the misguided Gateway scheme immediately.”
As of 1 PM the protesters were picketing along the perimeter of the property waiting for the former home owner to finish removing items from the house. The provincial government hired private security for the site this morning.
Update (Tuesday 9:00 AM): Protesters have now had a continuous presence on the property for over 26 hours and have set up tents. They continue to wait for heavy equipment to arrive for the house demolition.
Update (Tuesday 3:00 PM). Protesters are still at the site. They have now been committing civil disobedience by peacefully occupying land slated for highway construction for over 34 hours. The heavy equipment for house demolition has not yet arrived. The private security hired by the Province continue to work overtime shifts. Police are monitoring the protest but have not yet asked the participants to leave.