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The stupidity of the Walterdale Bridge protest

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The stupidity of the Walterdale Bridge protest

An opinion on the early morning bridge blockade

Climate change is real, but the bridge protest that took place on the morning of Monday, Oct. 7 was an ill-conceived failure done by people who clearly aren’t bold enough to bring their activism to people who actually matter in the grand scheme of things.

If you haven’t already heard, on Monday morning, protesters gathered on the new Walterdale Bridge, an artery linking Strathcona to downtown, and blocked traffic for more than an hour by linking arms with what was supposed to look like a pipeline, which resulted in a standoff between commuters and demonstrators. This sparked a police presence out of fear that the incident would become a terrible game of red rover.

What was the goal here? How does punishing people who go to work in the morning an efficacious way to “spread awareness”? Is it to punish commuters, who drive gasoline-fuelled cars? It’s ironic, because people burned more gas just idling there for over an hour than they would have if they’d driven to work.

This bridge protest, like others across Canada, is indicative that the climate change movement that has swept the planet has graduated from awareness to action. So why not stop city council, who actually has the potential to do something about climate change on a municipal level, rather than pissing off commuters? Do they really think that these nine-to-fivers are going to reconsider their outlook on climate issues after being personally inconvenienced by these people for seemingly no purpose at all?

The protesters would like to tell you that getting to work is not as important as the impending doom we all face. Okay, sure, but are we going to deny the enormous irresponsibility and public threat this kind of event is in light of an emergency? What if an ambulance or fire truck had to get across the bridge?

The police did an incredible job of being neutral and diplomatic in this situation, but should they have been?

Their initial release on twitter was as followed:

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Some might claim that there was no emergency vehicle that needed passage, so why does that matter? Because accounting for the possibilities of what could go wrong and preparing for them is the responsible thing to do. The police should have made the protesters open at least one lane, and if the protesters were to refuse, then they should have been arrested, as some were in Halifax. From the last tweet, I would say that it’s clear whose “side” the police were on, but it was their actions that demonstrated their neutrality. The last tweet was them siding with the majority, a statement purely done from a PR standpoint as to not offend anyone, which is a totally weak and unacceptable decision for a public service group whose role is to look out for the best interest of citizens. They cared more about not being labelled as “suppressors of climate activism” than enforcing the rule of law. Their role is not to pander to activists of a cause, their role is to keep the peace and ensure their servitude is to all facets of the public, which includes making sure the bridge is commutable for emergency situations and citizens. It is not the protesters’ role to direct traffic, it is EPS’ role, and they should not surrender this responsibility out of fear that they will be labelled as assailants on climate change.

Demonstrator Devin Radcliffe told CBC he feared for his safety at times. “There was a moment when the man who was driving his car toward us. I thought he wasn’t going to stop but you have to rely on the goodness of other people.”

Radcliffe told CBC that in spite the angry reaction from some commuters, the protest was a success. “One hundred per cent. We did our part today,” he said.“I think you need to have a wide variety of tactics to achieve success especially with an issue so complex as climate change.”

The wide variety of tactics this man speaks of would be better implemented at city hall or even a refinery instead of disrupting people’s lives. The goal of civil disobedience and the organization behind the protest, Extinction Rebellion, is to challenge governments and their approach to dealing with climate change. So why alienate a group of commuters from not only your vision, but the very idea of protesting? Perhaps next time they will be bolder and smarter in their attempts at reaching and disrupting the lives of people who can make tangible changes on these issues, because I’m sure the motorists from Monday morning aren’t taking any more steps in the right direction after being angered and inconvenienced.

This may be an issue worth protesting, but this is not the way it should have been done.