B.C. RCMP officers threatened to arrest media workers including Global News journalist Paul Johnson, and denied them access to an area where police expected to arrest people protesting old-growth logging on southern Vancouver Island.
The incident is described in a written submission filed by media and press freedom organizations in B.C. Supreme Court in July 2021, as part of a lawsuit challenging police obstruction of media workers during the Fairy Creek protests.
For 90 minutes, officers kept Johnson and other media workers away and out of sight from an area where RCMP officers were preparing to arrest people who were blocking a logging road.
The officers ordered the Global News crew to move back down a road, away from the site of the arrests, saying the area was unsafe for the journalists.
“You will be arrested if you do not comply,” one of the officers can be heard saying in a video of the incident shared by Global News. “Do you want to be arrested? You will be arrested.”
An officer refused to provide more information about why the area was unsafe, saying it would be unsafe to do so.
The incident is also described in a written submission filed on June 22, 2021 by RCMP media relations officer Kristen Clark, as part of the RCMP’s response to the media lawsuit. In the affidavit, Clark says the media workers were allowed to continue up the road about three minutes after the moment captured on the Global News video.
After arriving at the site, Johnson couldn’t see anything that would have made the area unsafe, he said in a separate affidavit filed in B.C. Supreme Court.