Pipeline opponents use social media as their megaphone to rally hundreds to Vancouver protest

Hundreds gather at Olympic Village to protest that morning's federal government's purchase of Trans-Mountain pipeline

One “tool of the revolution” allowed hundreds of Vancouverites to organize a flash rally hours after the federal government announced it would buy the Trans-Mountain pipeline from Kinder Morgan to ensure the project gets completed amidst opposition.

"Our phones," said Chief Bob Chamberlin, vice president of UBCIC, while holding his phone above the impressive crowd gathered outside Science World May 29.

Looking at the diversity of generations, cultures and uniforms, it wasn't a far-fetched notion that technology had a role in coordinating a rally protesting an announcement that had just occurred that morning.

Many members of the crowd learned of the flash-rally through Stand, an advocacy organization that updates subscribers to their list— which you can join by texting “ready” to 52267 — on upcoming actions and trainings related to preventing the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion.

Vancouver city councillor Andrea Reimer was part of the crowd and spoke to the Courier after Ian Campbell, the Vision Vancouver mayoral candidate she’s publicly backing, spoke as part of the 14-person lineup.

“You have to get the message out, but people here in this crowd? They can’t go to Ottawa every week,” said Reimer, attributing the costs of child care, rent and mortgages as financial barriers to activism. “But the tool we do have to get our voice heard is social media.”

But she cautioned that people still need to write to their MPs, whether that be with a pen, phone or computer.

“It may seem like a disproportionate response to the level of betrayal that people are feeling, but it’s a way to ensure their voices are heard,” Reimer said.

Burnaby MP Kennedy Stewart, who recently announced he’ll run as an independent for Vancouver mayor, said Trudeau’s government is making a catastrophic mistake by buying the pipeline, but is confident Trudeau will be overpowered by British Columbia’s opposing voice.

“Sending $4.5 billion to Texas isn’t going to change the fact that B.C. won’t let this expansion happen,” said Stewart, one of 200 citizens that have been arrested while protesting the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project. "Trudeau really doesn’t know us if he thinks this is going to be built."

Kennedy said he's been fighting against pipelines since 2011 and has no plans to stop, no matter what it takes.

“I think the fight is very close to being over, there are a lot of angry people here today. I think [this announcement] will be the final push.”

While shouts of “shame” reverberated off the luxury condos framing False Creek following any mention of Trudeau, yee-haws and cheers of celebration were also roused by speakers.

“You know who hasn’t failed?” Melina Labaocan-Massimo, an Indigenous activist from Alberta asked the crowd. “Us. We beat Kinder Morgan into submission, tail between its legs back to Texas. We beat the biggest oil company in the world,” Massimo said, noting that the company’s shareholders made no effort to outbid the federal government.

“We’re showing Trudeau that he can’t mess with the wild, wild west,” emcee Cedar Parker George rapped as protestors lined up to get protesting fuel from Bandidas Food Truck parked in the adjacent lot. The east Van based taqueria donated 100 per cent of proceeds from the rally to the Stop KM Legal Defense Fund.

“There are some polls showing that 12 percent of B.C.’s population is prepared to get arrested to stop this pipeline, and so many activist groups that I can’t keep track,” Stewart said, applauding online organizing efforts.

Chamberlin, who said he’s spoken out against the Trans Mountain pipeline on BBC Radio and Turkish television, said that the media were asking him today, “Well what does this mean in terms of the protestors?”

He answered the crowds cheers by holding his phone up.

“We can make a video right now, a personal statement, you can hashtag it out and we can make this issue get around the world,” Chamberlin said. “There is an interest from the international community to know what’s going on here. Let's raise the awareness of the reality of Canada's dark colonial past and the fact that it is still alive and well in 2018 in this great country.”

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