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BEPPLE – There’s time for meetings, but there’s also a time for protests

Protesting in Kamloops. (Image: File photo, Mel Rothenburger)

AS CITIES GO, Kamloops is not a hub of protests.

Certainly there are protests.

On Oct. 15, correctional officers protested violence they face in their workplace outside of Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre.  On Oct. 7, dancers dressed in red from Extinction Rebellion protested the Kinder Morgan pipeline on Mission Flats Road.  There was a Climate Strike organized by local students on Sept. 20.

There have been ongoing small protests over the years at Kamloops’ MP Cathy McLeod’s office for everything from (the then) criminalization of marijuana, to protests about bills on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), to a protest calling for action to ensure federal employees be paid correctly and on time because of the broken Phoenix pay system.

Opponents to City of Kamloops plans to ship bio-solids to Turtle valley rallied at Kamloops City Hall in the spring.  While the debate over the Ajax Mine continued, there were frequent protests against KGHM’s proposed plans.

None of these protests amounted to more than a few dozen people.   None reached even one hundred.

Watching the sea of protests around the world this week, it’s hard to imagine that the small protests in Kamloops could make a difference.  In Vancouver, on Oct. 25, a Climate Strike in Vancouver at which Swedish activist Greta Thunberg spoke, attracted 15,000 protestors.

One million marched in Chile this week.  Up to 2 million or more have marched in Hong Kong. Tens of thousands linked hands to create a human chain across all of Lebanon.   From Hong Kong, to Lebanon, to Chile and Iraq, streets have been filled with people protesting loss of freedoms, political corruption, and economic inequalities.

Protests can work. The hated extradition law was withdrawn in Hong Kong. The prime minister of Lebanon has resigned.

But none of Kamloops recent protests attracted even a fraction of these numbers.

So when Kamloops’ protests are so small, can they lead to change?

Anyone who has lived in Kamloops long enough knows that the traffic lights at 3rd and Columbia were not always there.  It wasn’t traffic engineers who got them built.  After being ignored by City Hall and the Province, in 1966, Marguerite Beesley led parents protesting an unsafe crossing for students at St Ann’s Academy.

They linked arms and blocked traffic, day after day for weeks until the powers that be agreed to put a traffic light at the intersection to provide a safer crossing for the students.

Beesley and others’ protest shows how even a small group can have a strong effect.

Fifty years later, traffic safety is still a concern.

On an online twitter discussion back in the summer, I suggested that one thing worth protesting in Kamloops would be for safer bicycle routes.

ICBC reports that in the Southern Interior on average each year vehicle crashes cause 160 cyclists’ injuries and two cyclists’ deaths.   And for the entire province there are 1600 cyclists’ injuries and nine cyclists’ deaths involving vehicles each year.

Some in Kamloops don’t think protests are the way to go.

When I tweeted suggesting a protest for bicycle infrastructure, a City councillor and others weren’t keen on my tweet suggestion.  They thought consultations and meetings would be more productive.

There is a place for meetings, but there is also a place for protests.

The Netherlands is renowned for their bicycle infrastructure. It has not always been that way. Continual cyclist deaths led to organized and ongoing protests in the 1970s. In the end, Dutch politicians had no other choice but to build safer bicycle paths.

Protests raise awareness of issues and shift peoples’ attitudes.  And protests can be highly effective, even if they are small.

Kamloops may never have protests in the thousands or tens of thousands.  But even the small protests can shift policy and lead to changes that benefit people for decades.

Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.

About Mel Rothenburger (7051 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on BEPPLE – There’s time for meetings, but there’s also a time for protests

  1. Tony Brumell // October 30, 2019 at 11:35 AM // Reply

    I’m not sure where you were when the Campbell gov’t decided to sell the Coquihalla Hwy to the Americans but we were there.About 30 of us got together and started one on Kamloops greatest movements.We held many rallies in downtown Kam with hundreds of folk protesting at Richmonds office at third and Lansdown. We moved on mass to protest in Merrit and finally won our fight when over 4000 people came out to our protest at the tole booths up at the summit. I still have many photoes of it. This was in 93 I think
    It was such an exhillerating feeling when we heard that Campbell had backed off.
    Later of course we (that is KAPA and SSN Fought KGHM to a defeat.) There were some pretty large events involved in this campaign. But the page is turning .When I recently attended some of the climate extinction protests it was as if the” old guard ” had disappeared.So many new faces taking up where we had left off but didn’t know us. It was still just as exhilerating as before.
    A small group of dedicated folks can still change the world.
    Greta is probably the best example I have seen.But the environmental imparative is greater than ever.

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