FORT SASKATCHEWAN — Shell Canada vowed to ramp up security to keep protesters out of its properties after Greenpeace activists scaled smokestacks and a construction crane to unfurl banners at an oilsands upgrader expansion project northeast of Edmonton.
After spending 24 hours roped high up on the structures near Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., the Greenpeace activists were arrested by members of a special police climbing team just after 5 a.m. Sunday at Shell’s Scottford project.
“It was a peaceful resolution to what could have been a very dangerous situation,” said RCMP spokesman Cpl. Darren Anderson.
In Calgary, Shell spokesman Phil Vircoe expressed concern about “Greenpeace’s unsafe and confrontational tactics. This placed their own safety at risk and also the safety of others who were on site at that time and throughout this process.”
Four protesters had agreed to an RCMP request to climb down from their perches Saturday evening after hours of negotiations.
But nine others refused to budge, and members of an RCMP and Edmonton Police Service climbing team donned ropes and harnesses and scaled the towering structures to arrest them, said Anderson, the RCMP spokesman.
“These police officers are specially trained in rappelling and use of ropes and have some background in mountaineering training as well,” he said.
Many of the protesters agreed to climb down using their own equipment, Anderson said. But two of them refused to descend on their own and had to be brought down by the police team.
A total of 16 Greenpeace protesters were arrested during the incident.
Each is charged with mischief and break and enter, and all have been released from custody. They are scheduled to appear in Sherwood Park provincial court on Nov. 4.
Mike Hudema, a Greenpeace activist who remained outside the plant, said the people who took part in the protest are passionate about trying to draw attention to an industry his group blames for dramatically increasing greenhouse gases.
“Every activist that was in there was prepared to be arrested and was willing to face the repercussions of that to hopefully push our world leaders to turn away from toxic developments like the tarsands,” Hudema said.
The protest began early Saturday morning. Streaming video on a Greenpeace website from climbers dangling above massive storage tanks and a network of large metal pipes showed protesters unfurling banners that read “Climate Crime” and “Climate S.O.S.”
After mounting several such protests in recent weeks at Alberta oilsands facilities, Hudema said he hoped that interrupting the industry’s activities helped Greenpeace make its point about the oilsands industry.
“We’ve been able to stop at least a portion of the damage that the tarsands are doing to our planet. I think that’s one thing that we’ve accomplished,” he said.