It was Patrick Yancey’s conscience that compelled him to block traffic at the intersection of Kirk Street and St. Ninian streets in an act of civil disobedience.
Yancey, and the other 12 members of Extinction Rebellion, gathered near the East Coast Credit Union Social Enterprise Centre May 24 to protest what they deem inadequate government action in the face of climate change.
“We had gotten word that the prime minister and premier were at the (East Coast Credit Union Social Enterprise Center), so we went over with a dozen folks including students from the Fridays for Future,” Yancey said. “We went hoping the prime minister would speak to the students about the climate crisis, about whether action would be taken soon.”
In a call with the Casket, Chisholm, a fellow member of Extinction Rebellion, noted she has been working for the last two months, in support of Fridays For Future school strokes, demanding action on climate change.
“Being a mother and professor, surrounded by young people, I felt compelled to offer support every Friday, outside of town hall,” Chisholm said. “This past Friday, we learned Justin Trudeau was in town, and felt it was an excellent opportunity to communicate the urgency of climate change with him.”
When they arrived, Yancey noted it wasn’t long before the prime minister’s security detail told them they weren’t allowed on the premises.
“They told us it was a private event and to stay by the street,” Yancey said, noting that he and his fellow rallygoers complied.
Yancey added the event “was a unique opportunity for the owners of the building,” that he and his fellow rallygoers didn’t want to jeopardize.
“We have a good feeling about the CACL, and we didn’t want to ruin that opportunity,” Yancey explained. “We waited there by the street.”
“We went down the stand at the sidewalk in front of the building,” Chisholm said.
After gathering near the intersection of St. Ninian and Kirk, Yancey said, Chisholm and a younger member unfurled their banner and took up position in the intersection, blocking traffic where it turned in from St. Ninian’s Street.
It wasn’t long before there was some friction.
“A large black SUV from the motorcade came down Kirk Street to exit onto St. Ninian’s and we opted to stay in the intersection to block it,” Yancey said.
The RCMP security detail arrived and told Yancey that he and Chisholm that they’d need to move, or they’d be arrested.
“I explained to them I was there because I was worried my children don’t have a future and that we’re on course for two to four degrees of warming,” Yancey said.
Yancey noted he and Chisholm refused to move, standing by their claim that current climate change efforts are insufficient to prevent catastrophic warming, and staying put in the middle of the intersection.
“I told them I couldn’t move, and that I’ve been petitioning, posting flyers and participating in marches for years,” Yancey said.
The security detail offered a couple more opportunities to move – which were declined – and eventually arrested Yancey and Chisholm.
“They put (us) in handcuffs and took us to the station and held us without charge for five and a half hours,” Yancey said. “Ultimately, we were released without charge.”
At the end of the day, both Yancey and Chisholm are glad about what happened, noting that it was a completely non-violent situation and it served as a way to call attention to Extinction Rebellion’s cause.
“I felt as if it was a legitimate opportunity to for me to draw attention to this issue,” Chisholm said. “To demand action by those people for whom our communities have voted for and asked for action.”
“The prime minister had to share headlines with us,” Yancey said. “We’d like to see serious action to get on course for a livable planet … since they were one of the first few countries in the world to admit there is a climate emergency.”
According to Cpl. Lisa Croteau,
public information officer for the RCMP provided security for a meeting at the location of the incident, at the East Coast Credit Union Social Enterprise Centre.
“During the demonstration, two demonstrators broke off from the larger group and started blocking traffic by standing at opposite ends of the Veteran’s Way and St. Ninian Street intersection, holding a banner which stretched across the roadway,” Croteau wrote to the Casket.
Two police officers subsequently approached the people holding the banner, Croteau wrote, and asked them multiple times to stop blocking traffic, “and advised that peaceful demonstration was permitted off the roadway.”
Croteau confirmed that both were later released from the Antigonish detachment without charges.
“The RCMP respects the rights of individuals to peacefully demonstrate,” Croteau wrote. “We respond to unlawful acts in keeping with our mandate to protect the fundamental freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.”