Police were called to a downtown Vancouver office Tuesday where a group of protesters had staged an occupation and live-streamed video of its clash with employees of a B.C. mining firm. The Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society and its supporters stormed the Imperial Metals offices on Hornby Street five days after the two-year anniversary of the Mount Polley mine disaster, during which the walls of a tailings pond holding 24 million cubic meters of mine effluent collapsed and released a wave of toxic sludge into Polley and Quesnel lakes, and Hazeltine Creek.
A protester’s video streamed from inside the office to Facebook Live shows several protesters inside the office screaming at employees, while at least a dozen more protesters outside banged their fists on the office’s locked glass door and demanded entry. Police arrived shortly after, but the protesters refused to leave when an officer told them they were trespassing. Following a brief skirmish, protesters claimed they were assaulted by officers.
Police Const. Brian Montague said in an email that the protesters arrived at the office shortly after 9 a.m. Cops received “reports that three or four of the more aggressive individuals began to yell and shout, as well as shove and push staff.” Officers attended after receiving calls to 911 and were physically blocked by protesters at the entrance and exit of the building, Montague said.
“Police managed to access the office and were required to arrest (four) people. Those four remain in the (Vancouver Police Department) jail as officers investigate their actions, gather statements and review video,” he said.
Last week, members of the same protest group gathered outside the Mount Polley mine site and formed a blockade. At the time, Steve Robertson, Imperial Metals vice-president of corporate affairs, told The Canadian Press that they left the site without incident and operations weren’t disrupted. Robertson said the firm views the anniversary of the tailings-pond breach as a reminder of its continued efforts to improve its business.
Tuesday, Kanahus Manuel, a member of the Secwepemc society, said Imperial Metals doesn’t have indigenous consent to operate on unceded Secwepemc territory.
“We have never ceded nor have we ever surrendered our homelands,” she said. “We have never surrendered or signed treaties or lost our land by war. We’ve never had our lands purchased from us.” Manuel blasted the B.C. government, the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Ministry of Environment for allowing the Mount Polley mine to reopen and continue operations.