Saint John — On Feb. 17, Irving announced plans to build its new headquarters in the heart of uptown Saint John. The project passed unanimously through the Heritage Board and plans for construction began. But earlier last week, heritage conservationist architect Jim Bezanson filed an appeal against Irving Oil’s new uptown headquarters.
With the project put on pause, Saint John’s sense of identity is also stalled. Until the project is restarted, hundreds have gathered in King’s Square to show their solidarity with the billionaire oil company, stating that they will peacefully protest by freezing in frame: standing in place, holding their current positions until the heritage board will change its law.
The Manatee asked the protesters whether they had any understanding of the current law or the appeal made. “Look, progress is progress,” said one protester. “Sometimes you have to crack an egg to make an omelette, and this restricting law? That is the omelette… or the egg. Whatever. All that matters is that there are 200 people, frozen in frame, supporting this cause. Some of us have gotten creative; I think one group of protesters are standing in the Stonehenge formation. I’ve never been there, but I’m sure it looks something like that.”
The protest started Monday morning in King’s Square, Saint John’s most pristine park. Local business owners and citizens alike were gathered together to prove to Jim Bezanson that in a city where thousands are employed, either directly or indirectly, by Irving-owned companies, it’s not sitting well with the public that this Jim guy can’t just be grateful for the jobs coming from this project.
We spoke with Gail O’Brien, a contract labourer who should have started construction on the project that has since been delayed. “I woulda had work for like, 13 months. You know what kind of E.I. I’d get after that?” asked O’Brien. “I was thinkin’ bout gettin’ an A.T.V before this Jim buddy got curious. What does he care? Why doesn’t he want me to get one?”
As the protest began, O’Brien was in the middle of scratching her head. Due to the nature of the freeze-frame protest, she will now have to hold her hand on her head for hours or even days. “My arm really hurts and it’s your fault, Jimmy. Just get with the program! We are an Irving city — get used to it already!”
The protesters were thrilled when the remaining Irving family made a surprise appearance. Three Hummer limos pulled up near the Imperial Theatre, with sounds of Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot” pouring out of the windows. The crowd screamed with glee as the family stepped out to make an announcement.
James Irving himself spoke to the troops. “We will be generously setting up a job fair for the upcoming construction set to take place,” said the octogenarian. “I know that this Jim guy tried to stall the project claiming ‘corporate pressure’ and ‘corporate monopoly.’ Well, I’ve played this game plenty of times to know that once you have St. James Place, New York Avenue, and Tennessee Avenue — plus 3 houses on each of those — you win the game.” Irving paused and looked out to the crowd, seemingly confused by what he had just said. He readjusted and resumed speaking.
“I promise that we will keep this city alive with this building. We will build this one, and another, and another, and we will never stop! I promise you. We are never, ever going to stop.”
The crowd loved the speech; unfortunately, they were unable to clap due to the nature of their protest.