As the sunny Saturday wore on, it looked increasingly as if the narrative that anticoal activist Kevin Washbrook pulled out at 5:41 on the morning of May 5 would hold true.
“It’s still early hours, but at this point it looks like one Twitter account [@StopCoalBC] and half a dozen people willing to get arrested and Warren Buffett has walked away,” Washbrook told the media gathered at the White Rock waterfront, part of the daily route where the billionaire philanthropist’s railway company Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. sends coal trains en route for exporting their cargo out of Delta.
According to Miles Hogan, another member of Stop Coal, the loose group of activists to whom Washbrook belongs, this is a good first step in the group’s goal of shutting down coal exports.
“We’ve stopped six shipments of coal and we’ve sent a strong message,” Hogan said of the total number of shipments cited by Washbrook as the daily quota.
Miles Hogan explains why he joined the protest.
By the time the Straight left in midafternoon, no BNSF representative had shown up. White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Lesli Roseberry told those gathered that one would be provided once that person had made it up from the United States, where BNSF is headquartered.
Flanked by sergeants Peter Thiessen and Dave Smith, Roseberry said she had no intention of disrupting a group carrying out its legal right to protest.
BNSF already had a court injunction against Bruce Mohun and Peter Nix from Stop Coal and anyone trespassing on the BNSF right-of-way.
“People can walk every day across here,” Roseberry said during the 15-minute media conference. “And that’s okay. I think, if there’s a train coming down the track, and you’re going to impede that train in any way, and possibly put yourself in danger and other people, then that’s a different story. Then we have to reassess.”
Later in the afternoon, one train carrying coal showed up, and about 14 protesters were arrested
Close to 40 activists were present throughout the day, including high-profile SFU professor Mark Jaccard, coordinator of the university's Energy and Materials Research Group and former chair of the B.C. Utilities Commission. Also on scene was former Vancouver COPE councillor Fred Bass.