Protesters blocking West Coast Express say they’re in it ‘for the long haul’

UPDATE, Feb. 14, 2020: Bus bridge to replace West Coast Express after protest forces cancellation of trains

Activists blocking the main tracks of the West Coast Express say they don’t like disrupting the commutes of working people, but they’re ready to stay as long as it takes to send a message to the Canadian government.

All trains Thursday afternoon and Friday morning have now been cancelled because of the blockade on the Canadian Pacific tracks along the Pitt River rail bridge. It was erected at around 2:45 p.m. Thursday by supporters of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in their opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline project in northern B.C.

Isabel Krupp of the Red Braid Alliance for Decolonial Socialism told CBC that strangers have been dropping off supplies for the protesters, who are “prepared to stay for the long haul.”

Late Thursday afternoon, about two dozen people were part of the blockade.

“We hope people don’t have to miss a day of work, but more important to us is defending the sovereignty of the Wet’suwet’en Nation,” Krupp said.

WATCH: Protesters say they understand blockade’s consequences but defending the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s sovereignty is more important:

Destiny Morris and Isabel Krupp of the Red Braid Alliance for Decolonial Socialism are part of the blockade on the Pitt River rail bridge. They say they’ve been getting a lot of support from people driving by their blockade. 1:06

The blockade is at the southeast end of the Port Coquitlam CP rail yard, near Lougheed Highway and the Mary Hill Bypass.

TransLink spokespeople said the protest means it’s not possible to move trains, conduct safety checks or perform inspections on Thursday night, which means it’s impossible to run trains during the Friday morning commute.

The activists say they’ve spoken with RCMP officers, who’ve told them they’re breaking the law, but there doesn’t seem to be any immediate risk of arrest.

Commuters at Waterfront Station who spoke with CBC wanted to know why nothing was being done to remove the protesters. One mother said she needed to get home to Mission to pick up her children from daycare.

Watch the reaction of frustrated commuters: 

Frustrated commuters react to the cancellation of the West Coast Express on Feb. 13 due to a protester blockade. 0:56

Destiny Morris, who is also a member of the Red Braid Alliance, said she understands the blockade might be unpopular.

“It is land defence that we’re doing. It’s not a symbolic act where we’re trying to win the hearts of people on social media,” she said. “Having this action here is directly affecting the commodities and profits that Canada is gaining from the lives of Indigenous people.”

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, whose Port Coquitlam riding is served by the West Coast Express, denounced the protest in a tweet, writing “Blocking West Coast Express is not lawful or peaceful protest, it is unacceptable and a disgrace.”

Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West called for an immediate end to the blockade in a series of tweets, saying the protest is “aimed squarely at the working people of Port Coquitlam who depend on the West Coast Express to get to and from work. They’re the ones who are suffering.”

While the blockade is in place, West Coast Express customers are advised to use SkyTrain and buses instead. TransLink says it will set up a bus bridge between Mission and Coquitlam Central Station during the Friday morning commute.

Wet’suwet’en supporters hang banners over the Mary Hill Bypass. (Meera Bains/CBC)