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18 climate crisis protesters arrested to end Macdonald bridge blockade in Halifax


HALIFAX, N.S. —

Halifax police arrested more than a dozen climate crisis protesters and cleared a blockade of the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge late Monday morning, about 3 1/2 hours after the action began.

Eighteen people were arrested “under the Protection of Property Act for failing to leave the premises after being ordered to do so,” police spokesman Const. John MacLeod said.

The Macdonald bridge between Halifax and Dartmouth was closed to vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians when climate crisis protesters set up a blockade at 7:30 a.m. and was reopened shortly after noon.

About 100 protesters from Extinction Rebellion, an environmental group pressuring governments to act on the climate crisis, were blocked by police from getting onto the bridge so they set up their line by the toll station.

Police warned protesters at about 11 a.m. that after a 10-minute window had passed, anyone still blocking the bridge would be arrested. Four police vans were on scene, doors open to take in those arrested.

“For us to come out here and disrupt business as usual, and further that by getting into the legal system, continuing that disruption and also showing that this is a real thing we’re willing to sacrifice to show this is a big big problem,” Hilary Mueller said minutes before being arrested.

The protest was peaceful for the majority of the morning.

Halifax Regional Municipality Coun. Steve Streatch (Waverley-Fall River-Musquodoboit Valley), who was stopped at the bridge, said it was "wrong" that Halifax police and the Halifax Harbour Bridges staff were the ones who closed the bridge. Streatch instead wanted them to clear the protesters away.

As he spoke, cyclist Will McDonald jumped in to tell him "it's a small price to pay" because “our world is burning.”

Streatch called McDonald’s comments “rhetoric” and “sensationalism,” before getting back into his truck and taking a different route to city hall.

On the other hand, Coun. Richard Zurawski (Timberlea-Beechville-Clayton Park-Wedgewood) said: "I'm in total support of this. We have to do something about climate change."

“They’re trying to bring our attention to it and we’ve been really lax about this,” said Zurawski, who was also at the bridge. “A little inconvenience, I don’t mind.”

Protesters had previously said they would allow people on foot or bicycles to use the bridge but police closed down the span to even non-motorized commuters.

“It’s the safest thing to do at the moment given the crowd and the environment that they have," MacLeod said, adding Halifax Harbour Bridges made the call to have police close the bridge off completely.

Ruth Ellen Jackson, a cyclist who was blocked from crossing the bridge, told the protesters they “have this wrong.”

“I do my part every single day and I saw numerous people get out of their vehicle and walk down with their climate strike sign,” Jackson said when confronted by a protester for allegedly making hand gestures.

But people at the protest said Monday’s demonstration was necessary.

“We came here so you would know we don’t have the luxury of time,” Michelle Paul said.

“I have to do everything that I can to ensure that my future grandchildren know that I did everything I could to stop what’s ahead of us.”

Lisa Strickland-Clark, a co-ordinator with Extinction Rebellion, said the environmental group “doesn’t like the method, either.”

Patrick Yancey, a member of Extinction Rebellion, said the group has tried “everything else for decades, so this is a last ditch effort.”  

“None of us should have to be doing this. Our decision-makers should just be getting behind the science and getting their policies in line with that,” Yancey said.

“We hope this will be what it finally took to get them to do it, but if not there’s lots of people in larger numbers all the time who are prepared to keep doing this until we have a livable future.”

Yancey was the first to be arrested. The protesters who were arrested were issued a fine of $237.50 and were released from custody shortly after being taken to the HRP station on Gottingen Street.

There were no huge slowdowns reported on other workday routes, as commuters detoured to avoid the closure, although the harbour ferries had more passengers than usual.

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