Save Old Growth protesters plan to occupy BC highways starting Monday

After taking a six-week break to recruit and train more protesters, the group Save Old Growth says it will summarize blockades of highways, bridges and other major infrastructure in Metro Vancouver and on Vancouver Island starting Monday.

“This time around we are trying to make sure that it’s a permanent occupation on the freeway, which is quite unprecedented,” said Save Old Growth spokesperson Zain Haq, adding: “If we do get removed on the first day, the plan is to come back the next day and the next day with greater numbers until there is a critical mass that can’t easily be removed.”

A group opposing Save Old Growth’s tactics called Clear the Road says the protesters are essentially holding commuters hostage.

“I’m very concerned that their actions are just going to escalate and escalate to the point that it is even more dangerous for commuters and for RCMP,” said Clear the Road organizer Tamara Meggit.

Arguing there must be consequences for blocking roads and inconveniencing tens of thousands of commuters, Clear the Road is planning to launch a class action lawsuit against Save Old Growth.

“So anybody who has been effected by these (protests), anybody who has lost shifts at work or anything like that, let us know your story. We are looking to document and a class action lawsuit will be in discussions with law firms,” said Meggit.

Haq says the threat of legal action won’t stop the protesters.

“They can do their worst, because we are not going anywhere. We welcome anything people want to do to us, because we are not doing it for ourselves or our egos, we are doing this because we are in an existential emergency,” said Haq.

“We feel like we have to do this to cause enough economic disruption that the government has to agree to the demand.”

He says members of the group are not only willing to be arrested, it actually benefits Save Old Growth if they’re taken away in handcuffs.

“People see people getting arrested and that brings about sympathy. Even if people are really annoyed at us, they respect the fact we are willing to suffer for our beliefs,” said Haq.

Because the threat of arrest is not a deterrent, Meggit says commuters have to hit the protesters and their financial backers in the pocketbook.

“If there are no consequences for their actions and it’s not their money, why would they not continue to create chaos?” said Meggit. “Going after the funding, that’s one way to go about it. Going after them on a personal level, that’s something that’s going to follow them for years.”

Meggit, who is part of a forestry family, also plans to head to protest sites to assist drivers caught in the chaos.

“I will be there to offer drinks and snacks for commuters and a blanket for privacy for those who need to go pee on the side of the road, and do what we can,” she said.

Save Old Growth won’t reveal the locations of the planned protest sites, only saying “there will be extremes around Metro Vancouver” starting on Monday.

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