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Protesters supporting Fairy Creek defenders block traffic in downtown Nelson

Protesters of Saturday's LastStand West-Kootenay rally and march occupy the intersection of Josephine/Baker as they stand together in solidarity with Fairy Creek Old Growth Forest land defenders. — Submitted photo

More that 50 people tied up traffic in downtown Nelson Saturday afternoon as part of the LastStand West-Kootenay rally and march.

The group, who said they were marching on unceded Sinixt territory, came together Saturday in solidarity with Fairy Creek Old Growth Forest land defenders.

“These types of high productive old growth forests make up less than 1% of the forests in BC and contain the highest biodiversity and house numerous endangered species,” said Jasmine Wiley Lu of Extinction Rebellion West Kootenay in an emailed statement.

“Yet they are still being annihilated for short term profit.”

The demonstrators were joined by long time land defenders who have spent much of their time and energy living on unceded Pacheedaht territory under the invitation of Elder Bill Jones and hereditary chief Victor Peters. The land defenders said they have spent more than a year attempting to stop Teal-Cedar from clear cutting the unprotected Fairy Creek Rainforest, which covers 5,150 acres of high productivity big tree old growth forest, containing trees of up to 2,000 years that are actively threatened with being felled.

“The movement is about so much more than just Fairy Creek, it is about ending all destruction of these ecosystems that are so much older than colonization,” Wiley Lu explained.

“It is about returning the land to its original stewards, the first peoples, and recognizing their reciprocal relationship of the land as the only way to combat the ensuing climate catastrophe.” 

Demonstrators gathered first at City Hall, holding signs calling for the preservation of old growth, and the removal of the RCMP at Fairy Creek.

The group reminded the public of a recent decision by Judge Douglas Thompson, that said the RCMP created substantial violations of civil liberties, including diminishing the freedom of the press to a significant degree during enforcing at Fairy Creek.

Judge Thompson recent ruled not to extend an injunction against blockades by people opposed to old-growth logging of trees in the remote area of southern Vancouver Island.

However, that was overruled by Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein, who granted a temporary injunction at the logging site citing potential economic harm to Teal Jones if there was not injunction in place.

A court date has been set for the appeal on November 15th.

An Indigenous land defender and drum with young protesters outside the courthouse during Saturday’s LastStand West-Kootenay rally and march. — Submitted photo

The protesters sang songs and beat drums, before marching to the office of NDP MLA Brittny Anderson, which was still covered in green handprints from a previous protest for Old Growth Forests.

The protesters continued to corner of Josephine and Baker St, where the group tied up traffic for close to 30 minutes.

"We are raised to fear the RCMP, and at Fairy Creek we are learning that we actually have no fear,” Rainbow Eyes, an Indigenous land defender at Fairy Creek, told the crowd of protesters.

"It's so beautiful to see our family here from Fairy Creek, and the heart family of the forest. That's why we all went to the forest, because we all felt that connection, we felt that calling and this whole town I think feels it."

Fairy Creek has been Ground Zero in the province in the fight against climate change with more than 1,100 arrests at Fairy Creek, making it the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history according to the Extinction Rebellion West Kootenay media release.

Extinction Rebellion West Kootenay said this action has spurred more than 250,000 people to sign petitions throughout the world to call on John Horgan and Katrine Conroy to protect these precious last stands of old growth forest.

“Scientists warn us that our own inland temperate rainforest, one of the last on earth, is at risk of collapse due to the logging activity that has only increased in the past decade and into the present,” said 15-year-old Ginger Osecki.

“We need to radically reform the forestry industry all over the province to be more sustainable for our planet, and the people working in it. And this must start with an immediate moratorium on all old growth logging, and extensive conservation financing to those communities affected.”

Oseki said logging companies must change logging practices, phasing out highly mechanized logging and the export of raw logs, instead implementing value-added selective logging.

“As well as the full autonomy of Indigenous Nations over their land, including reparations and conservation financing by the BC government, it's time for our politicians to act now, and stop the talk and log,” Osecki said.