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Bridgette DePape, a Canadian activist who protested in the Senate in 2011, is arrested by the RCMP at the Trans Mountain Project in Burnaby.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

As protesters beat on drums, sang and hurled insults in their direction, the Trans Mountain workers stood idly – their hands in their pockets, or folded in front of them, looking around at nothing in particular.

It was shortly before 1 p.m. on Thursday, and the handful of workers – staff and contractors clad in reflective vests and white hardhats that bore the contentious pipeline project's name – had been sent up Burnaby Mountain as a "litmus test," according to an insider, to see what reaction their presence would elicit from protesters.

Staged at the base of the mountain were two large trucks. If the scene seemed manageable, the company would send one truck up. If that, too, went smoothly, it would send the other and begin work, surveying the area and preparing to drill test holes deep into the mountain through which Kinder Morgan hopes to run part of an expanded pipeline.

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It didn't go so well. With dozens of police officers watching closely, about 150 protesters surrounded the workers, chanting "Shame!" and "This pipeline won't be built!"

"You are choosing to go against this community!" shouted one woman. "What are you going to tell your grandkids?" added a man near her.

One woman used a bike lock to chain herself, by the neck, to a concrete block. Not far away, police tussled with a protester and arrested him, drawing jeers from the crowd.

After about 15 minutes, the Trans Mountain workers – at least two of whom wore body cameras – retreated back down the mountain. In all, dozens of people were arrested on Thursday, one of the more raucous days of protests since demonstrations began in September.

The twinning of the pipeline, which runs from Edmonton to Burnaby, would nearly triple its capacity to 890,000 barrels a day, from 300,000. Opponents of the expansion say the environmental risks are unacceptable and the consultation process has been a farce.

Barb Grant, a Burnaby resident of 14 years, said she took part in Thursday's protest because she is worried about the kind of world she will be leaving behind for her children and grandchildren.

"I just feel that this pipeline is not the direction we should be going in, and I feel it's being rammed through without the consent of many, many people who are concerned," she said. "In B.C., we're taking all the risk of spills, and what that will do to our country and ocean."

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A.J. Klein, one of the organizers, encouraged other opponents of the project to come to the protests.

"We're called extremists, we're called terrorists; give me a break," she said. "We're singing songs together. We're up here defending a mountain, defending the land. What's so extreme about not wanting a pipeline to be rammed through the mountain for no good reason?"

A Trans Mountain news release issued Thursday said that the tunnel option came out of "consultation with the community, their request to see the existing pipeline rerouted and our objective to minimize disruptions to landowners, neighbours and road users."

The company says it has consulted with "thousands of individuals through 93 open houses or workshops" and had "more than 1,234 meetings between project team members and stakeholder groups."

B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Austin Cullen granted Kinder Morgan an injunction last Friday, giving the anti-pipeline protesters until Monday afternoon to remove all structures, shelters and other objects from the area. However, the protesters defied the injunction and remained.

Many protesters who were arrested on Thursday were released on the condition that they will no longer interfere, obstruct or impede with the Trans Mountain work.

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