NEW HAVEN — Approximately 30 protesters are at the construction site this morning in an effort to save 200-year-old hemlock trees from destruction in the path of the Trans-Canada-Highway realignment in New Haven.
Protesters are waiting for the arrival of RCMP who are expected to remove them from the path of approaching crews clearing trees for the highway project.
Drizzle turned into a steady rain at the site this morning, drenching protesters who struggled to keep lit a sacred Mi'kmaq fire near their tent camp along a stream bed.
Tuesday, RCMP arrested a woman who blocked construction workers and refused to leave the work site after another day of protests Tuesday.
RCMP Sgt. Andrew Blackadar said the woman lay down in front of one of the machines used at the site and the RCMP had to physically remove her.
“She was asked to leave, told to leave and then finally she was arrested,” he said.
Blackadar said the woman, who initially refused to identify herself to police, would likely be charged with mischief and resisting arrest.
Green Party interim leader Darcie Lanthier later posted on Facebook that she was arrested.
Blackadar said the police also escorted five or six people from the site without any resistance and four or five people were issued summary trespass tickets.
It was the first day the contractor was working at the site since the Transportation Department erected snow fencing to keep protestors away from equipment.
Last week the RCMP told the contractor it couldn’t proceed with work while unauthorized people were in the construction zone because it was a safety hazard.
Blackadar said there were still people in the woods at the site Tuesday after the arrest and trespass notices, which they were allowed to do as long as they stayed outside the snow fence.
But most of those protesters didn’t stay outside the fence, including several people who planned to spend the night in one of several tents scattered around a stream along the construction path.
Throughout the day people sat in some of the hemlock trees near the stream while the protesters waited for the construction to make its way to the camp.
Despite the protesters attempts, work proceeded throughout the day and the contractor managed to clear out a section leading up to the highway.
There was a bit of commotion later in the afternoon after an air horn blast sent people scurrying around the woods with some saying “they’re coming.”
Several workers had walked down to the camp and told the protesters they were going to clear out the trees near the camp as soon as work on the other side of the site finished.
That’s when a call went out through social media for as many people as were able to join the protesters at the camp.
Some of the protesters also pulled out cellphones and started to call around for reinforcements.
Not long after, another woman told the group someone sent her a text message to say the police were on their way and that people had to make up their minds about what they were going to do.
“This is it,” she said.
But it wasn’t it and by the time the sun went down the construction equipment was still in the field between the clear cut and the woods where the protesters made their camp.
The only break from the norm after the initial alarm was when about 25 protesters emerged from the woods to sing Amazing Grace across the field before they filed back down the hill.
Other than the morning’s arrest, there weren’t any more confrontations between the RCMP and the protesters.
But while the current Green Party leader was willing to get arrested, the upcoming leader was not.
Peter Bevan-Baker, who will replace Lanthier as leader in November, was one of the people who got a summary trespassing ticket for more than $200.
Bevan-Baker said he didn’t plan on crossing the fence to get charged with trespassing and only wanted to stop the machines from cutting down trees.
“That was my sole intent,” he said.
When it comes to getting arrested, Bevan-Baker said that’s something he absolutely doesn’t want to see happen.
“With the position I’m about to assume that would be a very foolish thing to do and I’m not particularly happy about the publicity that surrounded this, by the way,” he said.