(Unceded Pacheedaht Territory -- So-called “Vancouver Island”, so-called “British Columbia”, so-called “Canada”)
A year of continuous blockades against logging, on the invitation of hereditary chief Victor Peter and elder Bill Jones. Three months of police invasion (aka “injunction enforcement” for logging company Teal Jones). 650+ arrests and counting. Thousands of participants, visitors, supporters… numerous solidarity actions near and far, and logging blockades underway in various other locations across this colonial province: british. columbia.
The RCMP’s pension fund owns TimberWest, one of the largest logging companies on the island. The RCMP’s Orwellian “Community Industry Response Group” (CIRG) was created in 2017, the 150th anniversary of Canada’s genocidal statehood, to facilitate militarized policing of resistance to colonial resource extraction. Recently it has made significant incursions against the courageous land defenders dug in around the ancient Ada’itsx (Fairy Creek) rainforest, including a major assault on the blockade HQ and nearby camps begun on August 9th, the one year anniversary of the first Ada’itsx blockade.
While we would never count out this generational movement which has already proven its resilience time and again, the situation at the blockades seems dire at times lately. Our hearts are heavy, but our will is strong. At this time we offer a brief analysis of some overlooked aspects of this conflict, our deepest respect to many courageous rebels involved, and some criticism to the recuperative tendencies which, while not surprising to encounter, should nevertheless be discussed as the blockade movement evolves.
It hasn’t been well documented that the CIRG, while appearing superficially as just one component of the RCMP task force that’s been attacking the blockades since May 17, is in command of the operation, strategically deploying counterinsurgency personnel, materiel and tactics on unceded Indigenous lands.
As much as some might have wished it to be, this isn’t the early ‘90s anymore. This isn’t Clayoquot Sound, where mustachio’d mounties carried away a few people a day for weeks on end, until the legal system was clogged. Sabotage was also a decisive force of successful resistance in Clayoquot, but has been all but completely whitewashed from history by movement sellouts and campaigners, ENGOs, the non-profit industrial complex, and the modern day cult of “nonviolence”.
Thirty years have passed since then, thirty years of clearcuts, ENGO compromises, globalization, corporate capture, police militarization, the so called war on terror and its attendant domestic counterinsurgency, climate and ecosystem collapse in the context of predatory delay, extreme resource extraction, extreme inequality, etc. In 2021 at Ada’itsx, the CIRG have conducted mass arrests, but mass incarceration of land defenders isn’t their only method of repression. While many reformists in the movement see mass arrests inside the confines of a media-focused civil disobedience campaign as the only strategy for some kind of victory, the CIRG is not limiting themselves to playing that game. They are waging broad spectrum attrition warfare of a different kind.
There have been media-friendly civil disobedience type arrests, especially in the first few weeks, but since the beginning of the RCMP invasion, and with a seemingly ever greater tendency in recent weeks, arrests have been increasingly arbitrary, brutal, and hazardous. As the media spotlight has faded greatly, and journalists themselves have been brutalized, arrested, or denied access, the RCMP (wearing banned white supremacist “thin blue line” patches and covering their name and badge numbers), acting with total impunity and disregard for the admonishment and rulings of the courts, have continued to use extra-judicial “exclusion zones”. With these they deny access to media, and illegally detain and arrest people, many without charge, often releasing them within hours nearby, in unpredictable ways and locations.
“Legal observers” and the movement’s “police liaisons”, etc are not guaranteed any special status, and are frequently denied access, or swept up in detention and arrest along with everyone else. People not even within an “exclusion zone” or participating in injunction-breaching activity have been arrested nearby, contributing to a climate of fear and uncertainty, and a blurring of boundaries around the blockade actions. The RCMP’s so called “Division Liaison Teams” (dressed in less threatening garb and postured to facilitate “lawful protest” and “communication” between land defenders and the RCMP) have shown themselves to be full fledged combatants in the counterinsurgency, sowing confusion with more blatant than usual treachery and unpredictability, conducting sudden arbitrary arrests and other interdictive actions.
Along with hundreds of arrests, the RCMP have carried out hundreds of direct actions and psychological operations without arrests, such as: plainclothes and camouflaged officers conducting night raids to sabotage, steal, or destroy blockade infrastructure, equipment, tools, shelters, supplies, and personal items… and to utter threats, shine lights, blare sirens, brandish weapons, bluff charge at people with police vehicles, etc. Meanwhile hundreds of vehicles near the blockades, most of which are not blockading anything, have been illegally towed and impounded until extremely exorbitant “fees” are paid. At least one blockader’s car has been pushed off a cliff by an excavator.
Officers have been inserted behind blockade lines via helicopter, and there have also been extremely low helicopter flybys, using noise and rotor wash as weapons against blockaders. Trees have been felled dangerously close to treesitters, who have also been threatened with tear gas and rubber bullets, and pepper spray has been deployed against crowds who successfully stormed police lines to reoccupy lost ground.
Blockaders using conventional civil disobedience tactics like tripods and sleeping dragons can no longer count on a “peaceful” arrest scenario, as the RCMP increasingly use threats, violence, life threatening extraction methods, and torturous pain compliance techniques on people in these physically vulnerable positions. The RCMP, illegally colluding with Teal Jones to enforce the injunction, have gone from using excavators in extremely hazardous ways to extract people from tripods and lockdowns in trenches, to chainsawing or knocking over tripods until people fall, burying trench occupants with dirt and gravel, and ramming people with vehicles, resulting in serious injuries, for which medical treatment is denied or delayed.
Some blockades with people locked down in trenches have been neutralized by cops placing boards above them so they can be driven across, even while people are still locked down beneath them. Many people have also been denied access to food and water, subjected to prolonged sun and heat exposure, and been locked in police vehicles parked in the sun until they pass out from heat exhaustion. Marginalized people are usually targeted for the worst brutalities. An Indigenous youth who was denied access to their seizure medication while arrested, died of cardiac failure weeks later. There have been many incidents of of officers sexually assaulting women.
There is no such thing as nonviolence. Blockading is economic violence. Some logging industry workers have lost their jobs due to the blockades. “Peacefully” obstructing the RCMP’s invasion for three months is economic violence against the state. Offering one’s self up to be beaten to a pulp by a cop or a logger while in a lockdown is violent, to one’s self and one’s community. Blockaders voluntarily suturing their arms together to dissuade arrest is not only violent to themselves, but potentially to other blockaders and police via blood-borne illness.
Courageously, some land defenders are breaking free from the theatre of the absurd that is the cult of nonviolence. Some folks have been resisting arrest, de-arresting comrades, pushing police as they push past police lines, holding steady at a blockade position and then vanishing into the bush before they can be arrested, etc. Strategically, gates have been locked, others have been cut free of their locks, and increasingly, the police themselves are the target of the action, whether it’s a clandestine lock on the gate to their compound, or a blockade setup specifically against their vehicles.
Some in the movement, some of whom have political ambitions, and are generally some of the more privileged people involved, are more terrified of this than of the invading genocidal paramilitary known as the RCMP. Like party whips, they try to enforce the dogma of nonviolence and non-escalation, equating sabotage with violence, blaming victims of police violence who act in self defense, demanding evidence of police violence and seeking repentance from those who physically resist… oblivious to – or in denial of – the reality that the movement has been escalating its tactics for many months. Blockade tactics that were once thought of as “too radical” are now so frequent as to be mundane. Something as simple as a few logs and rocks left to block the road, without people there to take responsibility and offer themselves up for arrest, have moved from outliers to commonplace. Naturally it’s much easier to do things like this before the cops are on site!
An influx of radical youth, frequently comprising a majority of blockade participants at a given time or place, including many Indigenous youth, have called bullshit on “pro-industry, pro-old growth”, and pro-police movement marketing, flipping the script on all counts, while resistance inspired by the Ada’itsx blockades targets logging that isn’t just token remnants of old growth, and has no love for the racist colonial money pigs (RCMP).
The saturation of reformist nonviolence dogma contributes to deflection of resistance vs state forces to recuperative diversions… nauseating, ill-informed and/or misleading calls for police reform, “accountability”, post-action lawsuits, an attempt without precedent to nullify the injunction through legal channels, and slogans that reinforce the carceral state like “lock up the real criminals” (ie. the logging industry and its captured politicans). The pervasive notions that “bad policing” or “dishonest politicians” are to blame, obscure the reality that this colony’s police and politicians are doing exactly what they’ve been mandated to do. They sharpen their knives and attack, as inequality and repression increase, resources are depleted and the planet dies.
The cops are the army, are the industry, are the government, are the predator, are the enemy, and this is nothing if not a war for our very survival… BC’s perennial “war in the woods” is not just a catchy, metaphorical brand. We hold the enemy accountable by defending ourselves, and fighting back. We are accountable to ourselves when we realize that there is no such thing as justice, only liberation, and do whatever is necessary to make it happen.
Along with our criticism, we offer huge shouts to the Ada’itsx blockade movement… for its ingenious creativity, its rebellious spirit, its relentless mobilization, its proven abilities to outmaneuver cops and retake lost ground, and its absolute commitment to throw down hard on the land for over a year now. May it continue for many more!
We continue to push back against ENGOs and politicans who weasel their way in, and those who enable them. The grassroots autonomy of this movement is vital to its strength, and its very existence. A generation has been lost to repression, gentrification, transphobia, nihilism, mind-numbing ENGO politics and protest routines, and colossal ENGO compromises like the “Great Bair Rainforest” agreement. Perhaps a new generation of resistance is being forged in the frontlines at Fairy Creek.
Shout out the Gitxsan blockade…Skoden! Shout out the Tlia’amon and Homalco youth who blockade Western Forest Products. Shout out the grassroots Nuxalk taking a stand for their land, and calling bullshit on the horrifying sellout that is the GBR deal. Shout out Hiladi Village… Landback, no more treaty-making! Shout out the Old Growth Revylution… direct action gets satisfaction! Shout out the rebels who blockade the RCMP in Castlegar!
For a diversity of tactics. For unmediated hostility against the state. For total liberation.