Activists from a Vancouver-based group, Rising Tide, recently protested Premier Christy Clark’s collaborative decision with Alberta Premier, Alison Redford, to install the infamous pipeline that would link oil sands in Northern Alberta with the oil-needy on the West Coast.
The group set up fake pipes and a fake oil rig on Clark’s lawn while she was home to protest the pipeline, drawing particular attention to the fact that fracking — the process this pipeline would involve — has made some household water in northeastern BC not only undrinkable, but also dangerous for children’s skin.
It’s pretty flippin’ awesome that people are taking the pipeline and its possible consequences so seriously, and such a public demonstration is definitely drawing huge amounts of attention to the issue.
Illegal activity such as this, though, puts more focus on the protesters than the protest. I made a similar argument earlier in the year about self-proclaimed anarchists burning down housing developments in the downtown Eastside to protest gentrification. Acts like this, that break the law, put attention on the protesters, and separate the issues further from the general public.
The general public, whose opinion these protesters should be attempting to sway, are less inclined to take a group seriously when they don’t follow the rules. Sure, they’re raising awareness to the issue, and sure, they’re probably pissing of Clark, but this puts more attention on the group than the issue. I doubt Clark will see any reason to change her opinion on the topic in light of activists annoying her in this extreme, and I doubt the general public will be swayed on the issue when the extremity of the protest takes precedent over the issues behind it.
While the group’s intentions are good, these activities create a divide between the voting, generally law-abiding public, and themselves. What reason would the average citizen have to join such a group, if they could potentially be viewed as anti-societal in doing so?