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EDITORIAL – We have a right to protest but not a right to break the law

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

CONFRONTATION AND ARRESTS are now a common part of public protests rather than an unintended by-product. High-profile interactions between police and protesters bolster publicity and gain support for whatever cause is in play but it should never come to that.

Twenty-nine people, including two journalists, were arrested last Friday and Saturday at a work site for the Coastal GasLink pipeline project west of Prince George. The arrest of the freelance journalists has been condemned by media, and press freedom is certainly a legitimate worry.

The blockades had stranded 500 workers behind the lines, causing concerns about food and water shortages and lack of medical help if it became needed.

A few days earlier, B.C.’s Court of Appeal reserved decision on a new injunction against old-growth logging protests in the Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island. In the meantime, an existing injunction remains in place. Previously, dozens of protesters had been arrested.
In Blue River, the Tiny House Warriors continue their protest encampment against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, with several arrests and convictions for intimidation and other charges.

Nobody denies the right to protest. We have the privilege in our democracy of objecting to decisions made by government. We can silently picket or we can take to the streets with placards and bull horns and be as loud as we want, as long as we don’t break the law or interfere with the rights of others.

That’s what peaceful protest is about. Defying injunctions almost inevitably results in police action because that’s their job. And when police become involved, confrontations escalate and people on both sides don’t always act with impeccable manners. People can get hurt.

In this country, the rule of law co-exists with the right of freedom of expression, and the latter is protected within limits. But the law must be enforced, and that includes protests, no matter which side of an issue we’re on.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

About Mel Rothenburger (8563 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.

3 Comments on EDITORIAL – We have a right to protest but not a right to break the law

  1. When the “Law ” itself is in violation of past treaties signed by both sides then the agreived have right to stop the onslaught of invaders. The supreme court of BC has already found that the province is in gross violation of several of those treaties. That tell me that their are conflicting laws . One is valid and one is not. Until this question is resolved the invasion must stop. and the residents affected have an inheirent right to prevent further destruction of homelands. Like the old growth in the forests ,one they are cut ,nothing can bring them back . the same goes for the homelands and sacred rivers of the First Nations people who have always occupied these lands. In Fairy Creek the police are the ones who are most agreagously breaking the laws and the damed courts will do nothing to control them. They seem to be making their own laws and acting as vigliantes in favour of the corporation .The Talk and log paradigm continues .

  2. The irony about the photo event is that a relatively large portion of the native population relies on Canada for its income , sustenance and wealth, which are generated by oil, gas, and other natural resources .cut one’s throat to spite one’s face.?

  3. Agreed. The tendency to tribal isolation and ignorance has grown to tribal domination and invasion of rights of the larger society. This is anarchy, and the historical method has been repression. That is why we have police and armies.

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