VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A retired police chief doesn’t want to see tensions between anti-pipeline protesters and officers to escalate.
Police will only intervene in protest demonstrations if a court injunction orders them to do so, said Jim Cessford, who spent 20 years with the Delta department.
While related blockades in the past week or so have proved disruptive – including the cancellation of West Coast Express trains Friday morning – the police strategy has been to keep the peace.
“For the most part, the police will stand by the preventive breach of peace, but they don’t want to become, and there’s no need for them to become the focus,” said Cessford.
Officers did arrest around 50 protesters near the Vancouver and Delta ports earlier this week, however, as a court order was granted.
Blockades – in support of some Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in north central B.C. who are opposing a natural gas pipeline – have also led to Via Rail cancelling all routes across the country, and CN Rail shutting down services in eastern Canada.
“The police want to be a neutral force here and they’ll act if, in fact, there’s a public safety issue, if there’s assaults, or property damage, those types of things occurring,” Cessford added.
Online comments directed at police have encouraged officers to ‘do their jobs’ and “arrest the protesters.”
But it’s not that simple, said Cessford.
If demonstrations become too disruptive, he added, the government or impacted groups can seek a court-ordered injunction.
That’s when you’ll see officers take action, he said.
Meanwhile, West Coast Express service will resume Friday afternoon.