No arrests as climate protest blocks commuters on Edmonton bridge
EDMONTON -- Tensions boiled over as local members of an international group of climate activists blocked traffic on the Walterdale Bridge during rush hour to demand action.
Extinction Rebellion Edmonton's protest was one of 60 happening around the world Monday, called #BridgeOut.
Protestors had said they would not leave until they were arrested, but did negotiate a peaceful end to their demonstration at 8:15 a.m.
They began blocking traffic on the bridge at 7 a.m., delaying and upsetting commuters.
Police were directing traffic away from the bridge at the top of Walterdale Hill.
The group wanted to send the message that governments must take action to prevent catastrophic climate and ecological breakdown.
"What we're trying to do is create enough noise that the conversation starts," George S. with Extinction Rebellion Edmonton told CTV News Edmonton. "Nothing is happening, it feels like we're sleepwalking off a cliff here and we're arguing about who's gonna be late for work."
"Extinction Rebellion Canada hopes to pressure elected officials to enact legally-binding policies to reduce Canada’s carbon emissions to net-zero by 2025," the group said in a written release. "This demand aligns with what the world’s best climate scientists tell us is needed to prevent runaway global warming."
Some drivers got out of their vehicles and yelled at the group, which linked arms to block the bridge. They argued that the protest was hurting their livelihoods.
Police say officers moved first to maintain public order as angry drivers approached protesters. A duty officer negotiated with the group to conclude the protest.
"In Canada, all people have the right to gather peacefully. There are however limitations to peaceful assemblies contained in various sections of the criminal code," said police chief Dale McFee.
He said the matter was handled relatively quickly when compared to protests in other cities that lasted for hours. The Edmonton protest began at 7 a.m. and lasted until 8:09 a.m., McFee said.
"Obviously the police were prepared to act. We can't have people blocking off major thoroughfares for any great length of time when it disrupts our people's livelihoods," said McFee.
He said police were prepared to act if the situation escalated.
Nobody was arrested or charged at the scene but police say they are still investigating and criminal charges could be laid at a later date.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Nahreman Issa