The RCMP cut free seven activists chained to a downtown Kelowna credit union branch and arrested them for mischief on Monday.
The group of environmental and animal rights activists chained themselves to the exterior doors of Interior Savings Credit Union early Monday morning to protest the credit union’s support of Ribfest.
Teghan Gordey, an activist with the group, met with representatives of the Interior Savings around 10:30 a.m. and was told the credit union would not drop its sponsorship of the event, a fundraiser for local Rotary clubs.
Shortly after, the RCMP told activists they would be arrested and charged with mischief. No one was hurt during the arrests.
Following the arrests Amy Soranno, told the media she was disappointed in the credit union’s decision and vowed the protesters would continue to escalate their tactics to get their message across.
“We’re uncomfortable, we’re in pain and we’re cold. But mostly we’re upset,” said Soranno. “We are very disappointed with Interior Savings and we hope that eventually, they’ll come to their senses and realize that being on the right side is stopping sponsorship of Ribfest.”
According to the group of activists, it wants the bank to drop its sponsorship because animal agriculture destroys the environment and the festival allegedly uses meat from farms that have been accused of animal cruelty.
“We’ve done legal protests for many years now. Our concerns have been ignored, they haven’t been addressed so as I said extreme times call for extreme measures,” said Soranno, prior to their arrest.
“We will go as far as necessary until either the police remove us or until Interior Savings agrees to drop their sponsorship of Ribfest.”
Kelowna RCMP Sgt. Greg Woodcox said he spoke with the protesters and told credit union management officials why they were there.
“They understand that people have the right to protest,” said Woodcox, about two hours before the peaceful arrest of the activists.
A spokeswoman for Interior Savings confirmed it met with the group to hear their concerns about the sponsorship of the event.
“Interior Savings’ approach is to work with groups across its membership to support events that bring the community together, are well-received by the public, and in many instances, raise tens of thousands of dollars to support the important work being done by local non-profits in our communities,” wrote Sue Manzuik, a community engagement specialist, in a news release.
“Ribfest is one of those events, raising thousands of dollars to support local charities including Jo-Anna’s House — a home away from home for people whose families are receiving life-saving support from Kelowna General Hospital.”
She noted Ribfest offers free and accessible entertainment and offers a selection of food options to suit people’s preferences and the credit union remains committed to supporting the community event.
“Interior Savings’ appreciates and respects that everyone has a right to their opinion, to share their opinion and to choose a diet that makes sense for them,” wrote Manzuik.
“Interior Savings remains committed to supporting top-notch community events that raise tens of thousands of dollars for those in our community who need a helping hand.”
In July, a similar Ribfest protest was held by a group called the Kelowna Climate Save.
During that protest, the group used chalk to mark the sidewalks outside Interior Saving to express their concern about the impact animal agriculture has on the planet.
—With files from Dan Taylor and Twila Amato