Climate activists in Vancouver were able to bypass tight security at a Monday speaking event featuring Prime Minister Stephen Harper as they delivered a simple message to Canada's head of state: 'Climate Justice Now.'
Two individuals, Sean Devlin and Shireen Soofi, dressed as waiters in order to gain access to the stage where Harper was being interviewed, holding up small printed signs.
Devlin stood silently behind Harper holding a sign that read "Climate Justice Now," while Soofi's sign read, "The Conservatives Take Climate Change Seriously," with the sentence crossed out.
Neither made a move to touch or engage the Prime Minister and only stood behind him a moment before security personnel intervened and hauled them off the stage.
As the Globe and Mail reports, "groans of disapproval could be heard from the business audience on hand for the event at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel."
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The protest was motivated by opposition to Harper and his government's continued push for fossil fuel expansion, including his support for tar sands mining and new pipeline projects designed to carry the "world's dirtiest fuel" to export terminals in Canada and the United States. Those pipelines project include the Keystone XL pipeline that would run south through the central U.S. to the Gulf coast as well as the Northern Gateway pipeline that would run East to West from Alberta to the coast of British Columbia.
Subsequent to the event, Devlin spoke with local media explaining how he and Soofi were able to breach security and why they took the action they did:
Asked if he was surprised to have been able to get as close as he did to the prime minister, Devlin said "no."
"That was the plan, to get as close as possible."
"What I found surprising is that people are so shocked that a citizen can access one of their leaders when that room is full, I'm assuming of extremely wealthy people, who are essentially paying for the privilege of asking him questions.
"He really goes to great lengths to hide himself, not just from the public but also from the media."
Devlin said he wasn't a security threat.
"I wasn't there to hurt the prime minister today. I was there to communicate a message about people who I believe his policies are hurting."
Security did not see it that way. Devlin was immediately yanked off stage.
The comedian by trade, joked he received a harsh reception.
"I have had a few harsh receptions on stage, but I think that was the harshest," he said.
"They threw me right off stage, down some stairs and then threw me into the kitchen and held me on the ground. I was arrested and released. There haven't been any charges," Devlin said.
He said his back hurt "a bit" as a result of the way he was handled by security.
Devlin also said that Harper and other government and industry officials should expect more such actions in the future.
"If we have to put on an apron to get our message heard, and get those voices heard, that's what we're going to do," he said.
"We won't stop until the Conservative government is out of power, we won't stop until the Enbridge pipeline is stopped, and we will continue to find creative ways to make our message heard."
Following the incident, Harper told the audience he believes the Keystone XL pipeline, a key focus of protest for environmentalists and climate activists on both sides of the border, would ultimately be approved.
"I am confident that in due course - I can't put a timeline on it - the project will one way or another proceed," he said.