I’m at the point after years of protests, where I’m no longer anxious over a lack of “plan” or what the “outcome” may be. We just do it, and try to keep up our humour and spirits to pull our way through.
Construction protests are gritty and cold, and you really don’t want to do them without a good group of people and video cameras, for safety. People act differently if they know they’re being recorded, and that’s a good thing for you. You are outside of a “civilized setting” and you are dealing with all kinds of workers driving enormous vehicles, and like one protester told me, “Some of these guys have nothing to lose” if they bump you off. Other workers are respectful, and wait it out, but you can’t count on that.
I’m not saying you must have a specific plan (we loosely made ours in the car on the way there), nor convey to the police in minute detail the contingencies you aren’t even sure of yourself. Still, a heads up to the police for help is a good idea — before the protest. (Remember, the police are not your foe. Don’t turn them into one.) Use common sense, and frankly, police protection, because the last thing we want out of a protest is someone getting hurt. That’s what we are fighting to prevent: harm.
We met up (and tanked up) at Tim Horton’s — packed the parking lot, which seemed to consist of protest signs, wind turbine workers, and a senior’s bus. Some media did their interviews, and when everyone was gathered we hopped in our cars and did a sloooow trip south towards the Bornish NextEra wind project (45 wind turbines, and further south, another 38 for Adelaide project).
It wasn’t long before we realized a cement truck had joined our convoy. (Yeah, we knew where he was headed.)
Once we hit Kerwood Rd., many of us jumped out of our cars and started walking down the road. (On both sides of the road. Half a road is more dangerous than a full road in these situations.) Police then shut down the entire road from Elginfield to Townsend, which is about a 10 km stretch, right smack through the middle of the project construction area, including the substation and access to the major laydown area where hundreds of NextEra’s work vehicles are parked in their gated compound.
We had one nasty incident where a wind company worker, who was told by the police to wait, got angry and impatient and sped his white pickup truck around the people, just missing a bunch of protesters, the police officer and a journalist. Here’s a clip of the audio from the journalist who had her mic on.
He was promptly pulled over by the police and apparently NextEra was seen trying not distance themselves from the incident – they said they would terminate him. I have a whole list they should terminate….
Here we paused, the cement truck driver was good humoured and sat idling, and idling — and we made a very slow walk up Kerwood Road, past the famous eagle’s nest, and up to the massive substation under construction, that will serve not only the Bornish project, but also the Adelaide, Jericho and Cedar Point Projects (approximately 220 wind turbines in the area). The workers were in a pit, which we soon realized was a hole for a transmission pole.
These aren’t your average trans poles. They have a concrete foundation, are many feet wide — and they will line Kerwood and Elginfield roads, on the road right of way. Right now the metal poles and rebar cages are strewn along the roadside, and locals are clearly aware of the danger they pose to anyone who slips off these roads in winter conditions.
Naturally, we joined the transmission line workers (they were on the road right of way, so why not?) and immediately we have this guy cite us all the safety stuff: you need a hard hat (we had one on!) and high vis jackets (orange winter coat should do). We could ask this guy any question and he would answer with a robotic, “we-respectfully-ask-that-you leave-the-worksite.”
Many of the workers (Blue-Con, not NextEra) were not crazy about turbines; they seemed to even understand the issues, although they couldn’t point to where the eagle nest was. I offered one a sign to hold in solidarity with us, but he declined. Later I asked sympathetic police officer to do the same. He, too, declined. Worth a shot.
Then there is always the jackass worker who says, “Our JOB is to destroy your community,” and he laughs to himself, because a comment like that isn’t funny to anyone else, even the other workers.
Up to the laydown area we travelled. But, hey, they already shut their barbed wire gates on us! As if we were a danger to their impenetrable fortress. Wow! The funny thing is, they locked themselves in! No Tim Horton’s, no crop touring. They were stuck, like animals in a cage. OK, if that makes them feel safe, I’m cool with that. And when a truck wanted to enter, they were turned away by Bob and the two ladies from Enniskillen — like REALLY (not) scary people. But it worked!
The other entrance was blocked by several more protesters and the rest of us went up to the busy intersection of Coldstream and Kerwood roads (only travelled by wind turbine workers, though heavily). Before long we had another two cement trucks stopped (grumpy ones), half a dozen NextEra pickup trucks with trailers that couldn’t turn around, and some hauling transports stopped. Hmm. Not a single car of any local. ALL wind company vehicles, and they just kept coming and coming — and waiting.
And here’s where I say “stay safe.” Some of these truck drivers are edgy, and we look like squishable bugs to them. This is where we thank the police for keeping everyone safe. We gridlocked the area for another hour or so before breaking up.
On the way back up Kerwood road we noticed that we had been blocking more than we knew. There, pulled over to the side of the road, with full police escort, was a nacelle (I think) and other large turbine components. It had been waiting a distance away until the protest broke up. Our protest had blocked this main road for 3 hours on a Friday afternoon. After a protest like that you can’t just drive by that without a “stop.” So we did a mini protest with our “NexTerror Under Destruction” signs, were lightly threatened by the police, and then carried on.
Damn if there weren’t also 3 blades waiting further up the road, too, waiting out the protest! There are so many parts invading this area: over 300 blades and 300 tower pieces, hundreds of cement trucks (or thousands?), over 100 nacelles, and tonnes of hydro poles, canes and other garbage. It’s all just spilling into our countryside, a nasty flood wiping the area out.
Because I’ve been asked, “What’s the purpose of a protest at this stage,” I’ll tell you what I believe:
- It brings people, including locals and media, out to the construction site so there is “hands-on/eyes-on” knowledge of what is happening. It’s away too easy for most people never to bother driving out to these areas, or avoid them if they have to.
- It is a way of recording the community’s voice as saying: We do not consent to this destruction.
- Workers get to see the faces of those they are affecting.
- And those of us who live here can show our displeasure. Vent! It’s good for the soul.