After the Mayflower spill, make our voices heard
At 8:30 AM on a drizzly Monday morning in March ForestEthics Vancouver office was bustling. Ten volunteers and four or five staff were busy checking lists and loading a van full of pop-up tents, sound equipment and dozens of signs and banners for the day’s No Tankers Rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
It was the conclusion of three weeks of intense outreach that had included multiple events at four Vancouver colleges and many a late night phonebank. Needless to say the air was filled with nervous excitement.
By 10:30 almost thirty of us were at the Art Gallery setting up speakers, arranging mock-pipelines and trying to find a way to keep dozens of clipboards and petitions dry. The rain was picking up and as I sipped steaming coffee with my fellow organizers, Joland and Angela, someone made the comment that if 500 people showed up in this weather we could call our efforts a success.
At 11:45 we were getting a little worried. A crowd of about 150 had gathered in front of the gallery and 15 volunteers stood ready, clipboards in hand. But the rain showed no signs of letting up and we still didn’t know if people would take the time out of their busy Monday to stand up for their coast in the inclement weather.
Then we heard the drums.
I turned around and saw hundreds of people marching up the street towards the Art Gallery led by representatives from the Heiltsuk Nation! As the speakers began to take to the steps of the Art Gallery a steady river of people began to stream into the plaza. By the time Nikki Skuce, ForestEthics Advocacy’s Senior Energy Campaigner, took the stage to open the rally, there were easily over 1,000 people in the crowd. And that number kept growing.
The next hour manning our volunteer table was a blur. Over fifty people helped out during the rally doing everything from collecting petition signatures and holding props to marshalling the rally. Many of them had signed up to help for the first time just a few days prior. Some had never volunteered with us before and just came over to our tent to ask how they could help! The energy and enthusiasm was amazing. I barely had time to listen to Art Sterrit’s, Coastal First Nations Executive Director, stirring call to action or hear Bill Mckibben call our fight one of the most important on the planet.
Halfway through the rally we ran out of clipboards, then we ran out of petitions. A reporter asking about interviews with the speakers estimated the crowd at over 2000 people. At that point I stepped out from under our tent and saw that there was literally no place to stand in the plaza except precariously perched on the fountain – which was already occupied by at least a dozen people.
The sight alone was powerful. That combined with Ta’Kaiya Blaney ending the rally by singing Shallow Waters, was enough to move a number of people to tears.
As hundreds of people marched on to Enbridge’s office and I began to break down our tents and PA system I was overcome by how powerful that hour had been.
People in BC are showing they’re going to do what it takes to stand up for our coast, and they’re not going to let a little rain get in their way.