UPDATE: Cop cars set afire, Molotov cocktails tossed at shale gas protest: Mounties

The Canadian Press
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This photo, taken from CBC News video, shows two burning police vehicles in Rexton, N.B. on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. Note the licence plate on the back of the unmarked suburban on the left. It has Prince Edward Island plates. RCMP in P.E.I. confirm at least one of its vehicles was destroyed in the protest.

Prince Edward Island RCMP vehicle burned in violent protests in neighbouring New Brunswick

REXTON, N.B. — The RCMP say dozens of people were arrested after Molotov cocktails were thrown at officers and police vehicles, including one from the RCMP in P.E.I, were torched Thursday when they began enforcing an injunction to end an ongoing demonstration against shale gas exploration in eastern New Brunswick.

Const. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said at least five RCMP vehicles were destroyed after they were set ablaze and at least one shot was fired by someone other than a police officer at the site of the protest in Rexton.

“The RCMP has worked diligently with all parties involved in hopes for a peaceful resolution. Those efforts have not been successful,” Rogers-Marsh said.

“Tensions were rising and serious criminal acts were and are being committed.”

The Mounties said at least 40 people were arrested for firearms offences, threats, intimidation, mischief and violating the court-ordered injunction.

Reports from the scene said Prince Edward Island residents were part of the protest but it is not known if any of the 40 arrested including Island residents.

The RCMP began enforcing the injunction at around 7:30 a.m. to end the blockade of a compound where energy company SWN Resources stores exploration equipment. Route 134 at Rexton and Route 11 between Richibucto and Sainte-Anne-de-Kent were closed to traffic and schools in the area were closed early for the day after they were locked down as a precaution.

The RCMP called in backup from all three Maritime provinces including members of the RCMP’s tactical squad from Prince Edward Island.

Rogers-Marsh said police decided to enforce the court-ordered injunction because threats had been made against private security guards at the site the night before. She wouldn’t reveal what tactics police were using to contain the crowd and refused to comment on reports that officers had fired rubber bullets.

Robert Levi, a councillor with the Elsipogtog First Nation, said he went to the protest site early Thursday after hearing the RCMP had moved in to begin enforcing the injunction.

Levi said police pepper-sprayed dozens of people after 9:30 a.m. when he arrived with the chief and council.

“They sprayed the crowd that was there,” he said in an interview. “The chief was manhandled a little bit and all hell broke loose.”

The RCMP blocked Route 134 on Sept. 29 after a protest began spilling onto the road. Protesters subsequently cut down trees that were placed across another part of the road, blocking the entrance to the compound.

“The RCMP has worked diligently with all parties involved in hopes for a peaceful resolution. Those efforts have not been successful,” RCMP Const. Jullie Rogers-Marsh

The protesters, who include members of the Elsipogtog First Nation, want SWN Resources to stop seismic testing and leave the province.

Premier David Alward called for a peaceful resolution to the protest, saying the violence that erupted Thursday was “very troubling.”

“In no way can we as a country of laws condone the breaking of laws and violence,” Alward said in Moncton, N.B.

“I fully support the work that the RCMP do to ensure that the laws of New Brunswick are protected.”

The government’s position that a shale gas industry can be developed in the province as long as it is done sustainably and safely has not wavered as a result of the protest, Alward added.

“We believe in the responsible development of our natural resources. The company has been following the regulations of New Brunswick.”

Last week, Alward and Chief Arren Sock agreed to set up a working group to find a resolution after meetings were held in Fredericton and Moncton. At the time, Sock said there were still many details to be worked out.

Liberal Opposition Leader Brian Gallant urged the sides to resume talks to try to end the dispute.

“There is much angst and anxiety at the protest site and in the surrounding communities,” he said in a statement. “The dialogue must immediately resume in order to resolve the differences that have arisen.”

Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said he was monitoring the situation and called for calm on all sides.

“We strongly remind the RCMP that ... their role is not to take sides in disputes but to maintain peace,” he said in a statement.

“The safety and security of our citizens and all parties is our foremost concern at this time.”

Assistant commissioner Roger Brown, the commanding officer for the RCMP in New Brunswick, said last week he was disappointed that discussions between the provincial government and the First Nation had failed to resolve the issue. He said the Mounties would take a measured approach to resolving the situation.

Opponents of the shale gas sector say the process used to extract the resource — hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking — could pollute drinking water. But proponents of the industry say such concerns are overblown and don’t take into account the possibility of replacing coal and oil with cleaner burning natural gas.



Organizations: RCMP, SWN Resources

Geographic location: New Brunswick, REXTON

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Recent comments

  • matthew
    October 19, 2013 - 11:05

    why not let them bring the pipline in jobs in the maritimes would be nice

  • cardboard money
    October 18, 2013 - 11:29

    its criminal to protest peacefully to protct your land and water?but not criminal to poison citizens on a large scale for the almighty oil dollar.there are cell phone videos of police in combat gear firing rubber bullets into crowds of women and children.you cant believe everything in the almighty newspaper or on the nightly news.you can be democratic and talk all you want, until the oil company calls in harpers goon squad behind the back of the politicians and natives involved and set off what we have going on today.this is more than natives vs police, its about people having basic rights to clean water and land, over a billion dollar oil companies "right" to poison us all for more money in their pocket.whats gonna happen when all our tap water is undrinkable and we have to by our water from private companies to live ... sounds crazy right?

  • That Guy From PEI
    October 18, 2013 - 09:16

    @Barley Brewer You took what the news reported to you at face value. These people are defending their water sources. They've tried talks over the past 3 months but no one in government is listening. I would find that VERY frustrating. So read up on the issues first before you start pointing blame. There are corporations attempting to rape the environment and kill water sources...yet, the people trying to defend against these actions are seen as bad guys????? Beware of who, what, and where you get your information.

    • Barley Brewer
      October 18, 2013 - 14:27

      Don't tell me to read up on something I clearly know more about than you do, friend. :)

    • That Guy From PEI
      October 20, 2013 - 17:48

      What's your credentials. You have me intrigued as you 'seem' to know more. Probably another person with an uneducated opinion trying to cause trouble.

  • Frack this
    October 18, 2013 - 08:20

    While I don't believe that violence is ever the answer, a peaceful resolution could also be found with SWN Resources not fracking and leaving the province. Don't you think it says something strong when peaceful people are brought to rage over a environmentally dangerous procedure? Fracking contaminates drinking water and is not an environmentally sound practice. These people are trying to protect their communities. Listen to them!

  • Barley Brewer
    October 17, 2013 - 21:19

    It's simply appalling that some Canadians still can't understand that the courts resolve these problems, not violence. Attacking the RCMP and throwing explosive devices at uniformed law enforcement officers is a crime not only against those officers but against the justice system, the rule of law, and our entire democracy. Resolve your differences with words and peaceful actions, folks. Yes, I know that the less thoughtful readers will conclude that the police arrived second, therefore they are at fault. Consider that the nature of law enforcement means that those coming to restore the law are always going to be the second group on the scene. Not the first. I hope those arrested face serious prosecution for their crimes today. Others who try to agitate and create more problems in our society with this issue, or racial issues, should be ashamed of themselves.

  • Time for the crime
    October 17, 2013 - 18:28

    I hope all those responsible are hit with a hefty fine or jail sentence. Not only did they waste tax payer money but damaging the police vehicles, but they risked the lives of RCMP members. The police are here to keep order and protect the general population, anyone threatening the life of an officer should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

  • Gary Naylor
    October 17, 2013 - 15:33

    The RCMP are our fellow citizens doing their job. When they tell a crowd to move,the crowd should move. PERIOD