Extinction Rebellion Bridge Blockades Draw Attention, Produce Irate Drivers
Snarled rush hour traffic, irate drivers, the occasional fistfight and thrown bicycle, hundreds of arrests, and mostly satisfied protesters were the main results after Extinction Rebellion orchestrated a series of bridge closures in Europe and North America to protest governments’ inaction on the climate crisis.
The morning protests “went well,” Halifax ER member Adam Baden-Clay told the Star Halifax, after 18 people were arrested for blocking the MacDonald Bridge between Halifax and Dartmouth, NS.
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“It feels awkward to say that because, of course, by things going well it’s meant we disrupted a lot of people,” he said. “And nobody wanted to do that, but it was necessary.”
The protesters generally said they felt they’d succeeded in pressuring governments to adopt binding targets for faster, deeper carbon cuts.
CBC says protests that blocked bridges in Halifax, Toronto, Edmonton, Kitchener, Victoria, and Vancouver led to dozens of arrests across Canada.
“Mostly, we want people in power to listen,” said Victoria organizer Mark Nykanen. “If [people are] inconvenienced we’re really honestly sorry about that, but extinction and the impacts of the climate crisis are going to be a huge inconvenience.”
In Calgary, protesters handed out Timbits rather than blocking traffic for more than a few minutes at a time.
“What we hope to get out of this is we want to make Calgarians, Albertans, and Canadians aware of the urgency of the need for action,” said local spokesperson Andy Kubrin. “And we want them to join us pressing the case to government that we need to take action in this crisis.”
Things got tense in Edmonton, where the bridge blockage led to fistfights, followed by police negotiations that prompted ER organizers to shut down their protest ahead of schedule.
“I think there are definitely channels that would be more suited to doing this and not interrupting people’s lives,” commuter Jack Haworth told CBC. “It’s frustrating. I think everyone here has a sensitivity to climate, but there are definitely better ways to channel that…rather than punishing people for trying to get work in the morning. It’s ridiculous.”
“I understand that this is going to disrupt and inconvenience a lot of people,” said Erin Armstrong, one of the 10 Edmonton protesters. “But I feel there’s nothing else that is going to reach out and wake people up.”
But local city councillor Aaron Paquette, who sponsored a successful climate emergency motion for Edmonton, challenged ER’s conclusion that the protest was a win. “
They feel no one is listening and that their issue needs heightened attention. I get it,” he tweeted. But disrupting people’s daily commutes “just pushes hearts away from the message”.