Dawn-to-Dusk Actions Disrupt Port of Vancouver
People gathered in Callister Park on Renfrew Street (west side, across from PNE, just south of McGill) at midday on Monday 12 December 2011. Occupy Vancouver looked to stand in solidarity with other west coast port actions and shutdowns stretching from Anchorage to San Diego.
The tone for the cold sunshiny day had already been set in early morning by smaller groups of protesters who temporarily disrupted traffic entering the Clark and Heatley entrances to the Port of Vancouver.
The widely advertised noon gathering drew together for photographs behind a huge banner that proclaimed Stop Port Expansion. Then a series of speakers took their turns, with the banner as backdrop, and the surrounding crowd shifted position to become audience.
After speeches, a group numbering about 130 people headed north on Renfrew, experienced brief directional confusion at the intersection with McGill, and then turned east down the hill. At the foot another turn led left onto Commissioner and directly toward the port.
Along the way marchers flowed past several large trucks that had to pause in their exits. Most of the drivers showed good humor and even sympathy. At the crest of the railway overpass the procession paused for discussion of possibilities. Off to the right in Burrard Inlet, a boldly labeled police boat hugged the shore.
Stretched across the road at the bottom stood a single row of police officers, with chain-link fencing abutting either side of the road. At 1:30 pm the crowd halted in front of the police line. Police forces in the direction of the port numbered 30 to 35. Eventually two police vans pulled up behind the police line. To the rear on the overpass a separate small squad also monitored the situation.
Someone reported that a large media camera set up in the roadway near the police had departed, apparently at police request. That news seemed to catalyze a decision to reverse course. As the parade began to retrace its route, the entire police line followed at a distance. Long banners at front and rear defined a much larger and more thinly populated pavement space for the march back.
By this time the mainstream media seemed to have grabbed their footage and notebooks and hiked off to manufacture whatever they would have to say, based on nothing more than a glance at an early part of the afternoon. Check out their useless reporting.
Back at the corner of McGill, the protest group divided into two, one portion holding Commissioner against the police line, another straggling out into and west on McGill. A handful of officers unsuccessfully attempted to order the foremost group over to the curb lane. Once the group still on Commissioner decided to move along as well, the entire roadway was held for the duration of the return, with a brief pause at 2:20 pm in the intersection with Renfrew.
Since most of the policing remained at the rear of the march back, the widely spread collection of walkers, bicycles, and signholders effectively occupied all of the westbound lanes of McGill. When the group turned south on Renfrew, police attempted to clear at least a portion of the street by bringing their line up along the east side. However, conditions favored the marchers holding the entire width of Renfrew until they returned to Callister Park. There a diagonal line of motorcycles formed to funnel people off of the pavement and back into the park.
After brief discussion, various separate small groups of protesters headed west toward the other port entrances at Clark and Heatley. By 3:10 pm a sizeable crowd filled the street in front of the Clark entrance. A line of eight police stood in front of a closed gate, and another group of about the same size stood on the SE corner of Clark and Franklin.
Word soon arrived that more occupiers were needed at Heatley, where arrests seemed imminent. Many people headed in that direction, leaving 30 to 35 persons to hold the Clark roadway. Apparent police presence rapidly declined to six at the gate and three on the corner.
By 3:45 pm police presence at Clark swelled to a ratio of about one police officer for every protester. A vanload of police debarked in a laneway east of Clark. The police used their LRAD device as a loudspeaker to read out a warning to vacate traffic pavement and to disperse, setting a time limit of one minute, with threat of a criminal charge of mischief.
Most of the protesters moved to the west sidewalk. A woman operating a livestream laptop in the street was taken into custody immediately, and a scuffle occurred at the western curb, where a second person also appeared to have been arrested. A standoff ensued along the west side curb of Clark near Franklin. Three persons attempting to cross Clark at Hastings on the north side were told to turn back unless they wanted to be arrested.
At 4:00 pm the Heatley contingent of protesters arrived, marching with vigor along Hastings. Since policing was concentrated north toward Franklin, the new arrivals briefly were able to take over the intersection of Hastings and Clark. Again the LRAD was used to broadcast the same warning. Most of the two groups of protesters then gathered along the sidewalk of Clark near the SW corner with Hastings. Suddenly police took down two persons on the east sidewalk of Clark, one of them an alternative media journalist. A bit later a third person in that same area was put into handcuffs.
After a good deal of discussion, most of the protesters headed west in the street along Hastings, accompanied by a minimal police escort. Destination: jail solidarity at Main Street. According to livestream reporting slightly later, a crowd count at the jail numbered 48, taken for purposes of determining possible presence of an Occupy Vancouver general assembly quorum.
Following on contradictory reports from police and a good deal of confusion, it soon became clear that the five arrestees had been released elsewhere without charge. Mention was made of Joyce SkyTrain station. At an earlier stage it seemed that charges would include mischief and breach of peace.