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Update: protestors arrested and fined for blocking train in White Rock

Thirteen people were arrested without incident after opponents of coal exports blocked train tracks in White Rock on the weekend. - Boaz Joseph photo
Thirteen people were arrested without incident after opponents of coal exports blocked train tracks in White Rock on the weekend.
— image credit: Boaz Joseph photo

Thirteen people were arrested and fined $115 each for blocking the train tracks in White Rock Saturday (May 5) shortly after 6 p.m.

A freight train was delayed for a short period of time.

The protesters, members of a larger group of about 40, were handcuffed and removed by police without resisting arrest.

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railway had earlier obtained a B.C. Supreme Court injunction against the blockade.

A statement issued by RCMP spokeperson Sgt. Peter Thiessen said the demonstrators "were respectful of the police and the process that was required to affect their arrest as a result of their actions."

In return, RCMP allowed them to make brief statement to reporters at the scene before they were arrested.

Theissen said those arrested, 12 men and one woman, were  transported to the White Rock RCMP Detachment where they were processed, served with a $115.00 "Contravention Ticket for Trespassing on the Railway contrary to the Railway Safety Act" and subsequently released.

The demonstration was mounted by the group British Columbians for Climate Action, who want the export of coal from B.C. phased out.

Peter Nix, of Maple Bay on Vancouver Island, who describes himself as a "retired scientist and Cowichan carbon buster" spoke for the group that occupied  the BNSF line close to the White Rock pier.

Aim of their "peaceful civil disobedience," he said, is to block U.S. coal trains from travelling to the bulk-coal terminal at Roberts Bank.

Amtrak and BNSF were given advance notice of the protest, he said, and the aim of the group was not to disrupt passenger or freight traffic – only coal trains.

Peter Nix"We like trains," Nix told Peace Arch News before the protest. "They have less carbon emissions than other forms of transportation."

BNSF public affairs director Gus Melonas said that while he may respect the right to protest, "the rails are certainly not the location to voice your opinions on issues.

"The last thing we want is for anyone to get hurt."

In a news release issued Tuesday, Nix said that while the B.C. government sponsors domestic programs to reduce carbon admissions, including a carbon tax – "thereby admitting that climate change is a serious problem" – our coal exports ultimately produce as much greenhouse gases as all of our domestic production; the equivalent of adding "two new vehicles for every person in B.C."

Nix noted that more than 300 people from all over B.C. and the Lower Mainland have previously signed the group's pledge of direct action in fighting coal exports on the website www.stopcoal.ca.

Nix said his involvement in the protest and the broader activities of British Columbians for Climate Action are a matter of conscience.

As a former environmental scientist, he said, he spent 25 years as a consultant to the Alberta Tar Sands project.

"I have black hands," he said. " I quit because I realized it was not sustainable.This is all about climate change – our kids are not going to have a good future if we don't stop pushing fossil fuels."

While he agrees that a phase-out of coal exports is no easy task, "something has to be done."

He said that "trillions of dollars" in profits from fossil fuels – and aggressive spin-doctoring by lobbyists – is closing people's eyes to the catastrophic consequences of climate breakdown, which could include everything from droughts, floods, forest fires, food shortages, to increases in in tropical diseases and political chaos.

Nix said a turning point for him came when he discovered that a major report he authored on the reclaimability of land after oil extraction had been edited to suggest that reclaimability was possible.

"I wasn 't saying it wasn't and I wasn't saying it was – I was just discussing the problems, including things like yellow groundwater," he said.

"That's when I realized that anything I had to say was going to be ignored."

 

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