Activists with Save Old Growth block traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway in Metro Vancouver in May 2022, calling for an end to old-growth logging in British Columbia. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Save Old Growth)

Activists with Save Old Growth block traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway in Metro Vancouver in May 2022, calling for an end to old-growth logging in British Columbia. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Save Old Growth)

OPINION: Save Old Growth protesters are only disrupting lives and pissing people off

Protest is great but blocking highways is ignorant and shortsighted

We’ve seen a lot of protests in recent months and years in Canada, some more disruptive than others.

Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the freedom of expression, freedom of association and the freedom of peaceful assembly.

From Black Lives Matter and Idle No More to the more recent to the anti-vaccine mandate protests in Ottawa inaccurately labelled “trucker” protests, we’ve seen it all.

Sociologists and political economists have studied the subject for years, and often protest does work. But sometimes, when protestors go too far, think the “truckers” with swastikas, urinating on national monuments in Ottawa, protest only turns the general public against the cause.

This can be the case even when it’s a noble one. Recently we’ve seen motorists greatly inconvenienced by the Save Old Growth group who are protesting the logging of old growth trees amid a climate crisis.

Great cause, yes, but the behaviour by this group — gluing themselves to highways, stopping drivers and vandalizing buildings in Vancouver — is not helping their cause.

READ MORE: ‘You wanna die?’: Angry commuters drag ‘Save Old Growth’ protesters off B.C. highway

READ MORE: Save Old Growth protester shatters hip during B.C. highway blockade

If Save Old Growth (SOG) and the “trucker” protests tried to start conversations about climate change and vaccine mandates, all they really did was start conversations about traffic disruption and white supremacy.

Harvard political economist PhD holder Shom Mazumder said in a Washington Post op-ed that no two protests are the same but successful ones have three things in common. From the civil rights movement to the conservative Tea Party movement, they succeed by focusing on three key factors: organization, messaging and non-violence.

The Tea Party was successful pushing the Republican party further to the right because of well-funded grassroots organization and frequent meetings, according to Mazumder.

And on messaging: “Does the message resonate for more people than just the core supporters?” This is really important to sway those who know nothing about the cause, haven’t thought about the issues, or just haven’t made up their mind.

As for non-violence, obviously this is important. There is very little sympathy for those who stormed the Capital in Washington on Jan. 6, and many of those domestic terrorists are now in jail.

The more disruptive a protest is, the more it is noticed by the media, which spreads the information that is consumed by the general public.

The “truckers” convoy was incredibly disruptive to downtown Ottawa and it went on way too long. It is also unclear even what its point was, but if it was vaccine mandates, the protest accomplished nothing.

Similarly, SOG protesters spraypainting “Save Old Growth” graffiti on heritage buildings on Main Street will not evoke public sympathy.

Will the SOG protests shift public opinion on climate change?

Maybe. But absolutely not if they keep blocking other citizens from getting to and from their job sites, to grocery stores, to pick up kids from school, and to medical appointments.

A woman named Tamara Meggitt has created a petition called “Clear the Road.” The group is gaining steam and is now looking to file a class-action lawsuit against SOG.

“Are you a tradesperson who lost work? Were you unable to tend to your store? Did merchandise being delivered spoil or fail to reach its destination, causing your business a loss?” Meggitt asked.

“If any of these things apply, we would like to hear from you.”

She added: “It isn’t environmentalism to block roads and force hundreds of drivers to burn extra fuel idling in an artificial traffic jam. That’s hypocrisy, and has a real impact on people’s lives.”

If SOG participants stood on overpasses with elaborate banners they would probably get countless honks and waves of support.

Instead, they disrupt lives and piss everyone off.


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