Crown drops all charges against tree sitters

Looking south at the interchange site. The former tree sit is at the top centre.

Crown drops all charges against tree sitters

Foes of interchange were arrested during massive February raid

Richard Watts, Times Colonist

May 14, 2008

Protesters arrested for mischief over demonstrations against Langford's Spencer Road interchange have been set free of all charges.

Criminal Justice spokesman Stan Lowe confirmed yesterday that the Crown, after review, decided not to proceed with charges against those arrested during the protest.

Lowe said that decision might change, however, if circumstances become different.

The five, Luke Woodyard, Noah Ross, Ingmar Lee, Nancy Powell and Ben Isitt, were arrested in February after a massive police raid broke up a year-long protest.

People opposed to the interchange had staged a tree-sit and campout to block work crews set to begin clearing ground for the multimillion-dollar traffic project near Spencer Road on the Trans-Canada Highway.

Protesters complained the project encouraged urban sprawl, destroyed diminishing forests and endangered rare caves.

The municipality, however, has insisted the project is necessary to ease congestion on the highway and provide a secondary access to the Bear Mountain development.

Protest supporter Zoe Blunt said while it was a relief to have the charges set aside, many are still feeling angry and bitter over the treatment they received.

For example, Blunt said the initial police raid, with about 50 officers complete with SWAT team and crowd-control units, seemed like overkill to break up a camp of about five people. "What are the RCMP doing?"

An official complaint has been filed in connection with Mountie conduct.

Blunt also said the protest was part of a larger effort that made it all worthwhile.

Opponents of the project are now talking with bankers asking them to take a second look at Langford's request to borrow money for the project. And the bankers are listening.

"The financing is not a done deal, and the interchange is way behind schedule," Blunt said. She said people in the community are now asking some hard questions of Langford councillors while an election is looming this November.

"Even if they get their interchange, they are going to wear it around their necks for the rest of their political lives," Blunt said.

"We've mobilized thousands," she said. "We have so much support in the community we have really showed people, 'You can fight city hall.'"

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