Molotov Cocktails & Guns Confiscated; Support Pours in for Mi'kmaq Protesters
Support for Mi’kmaq protesters in New Brunswick spread throughout Turtle Island on Friday October 18, as events were held as far away as Vancouver and New York City, and the Sierra Club announced its solidarity with the anti-fracking demonstrators.
First Nations leaders were meeting with provincial officials on Friday afternoon as protests continued and events sprang up in support of the Elsipogtog First Nation’s anti-fracking protest, which turned violent on Thursday and resulted in 40 arrests. The band has been taking a stand against the company conducting seismic testing, which many believe is a prelude to fracking operations.
Among those arrested was Elsipogtog First Nation Chief Arren Sock, who had issued the company an eviction notice on October 1, and the band’s council. The Elsipogtog had reclaimed all unoccupied reserve lands from the federal and provincial governments on that day and gave notice to SWN Resources Canada, a subsidiary of Houston-based Southwestern Energy Co., that it needed to leave. The company is conducting seismic testing to see if there are ample reserves to warrant extraction by fracking.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) raided the two-week-old Mi’kmaq encampment on Thursday morning, arresting 40 people after the protests turned violent. Molotov cocktails were reportedly fired, as well as “several shots” from within the encampment, the RCMP said in a statement on October 18. Moroever, “six RCMP vehicles were destroyed by fire, and several improvised explosive devices were discovered and defused,” the RCMP said. “These explosives contained shrapnel and had the potential to seriously injure or kill people.”
Police said no serious injuries were reported.
“The weapons and explosives we seized show that this was no longer a peaceful protest and there was a serious threat to public safety. We took the action necessary to address that threat,” said New Brunswick RCMP Commanding Officer Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown in the police statement. “Police officers demonstrated incredible professionalism as they worked to resolve the situation under tremendously difficult and dangerous circumstances. Some in the crowd threw rocks and bottles at them and sprayed them with bear spray. Setting police cars on fire created a dangerous situation for everyone in the area, and it was at that point that police were forced to physically confront some in the crowd who refused to obey the law.”
Charges for the nine people who were scheduled to appear in court on October 18 included pointing a firearm, mischief, assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest, obstruction of justice and failing to abide by a court injunction, the RCMP said.
SWN Resources Canada, the company conducting the testing, will continue to do so.
Dramatic video and photos emerged of the standoff. Photos and video streamed to Twitter and Facebook throughout the day, to several hashtags. Support spread immediately throughout Turtle Island, and the Sierra Club on Friday issued a media release proclaiming solidarity.
“The Sierra Club stands with anti-fracking protesters in New Brunswick, Canada, and around the world who are protecting their land and their families from the real danger that fracking brings to the health and safety of their communities,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune in the statement. “All Canadians and all Americans should ask themselves whether a police response with tactical units and snipers was meant to serve public safety, or squelch opposition to fracking in the service of the oil industry.”
In Montreal there will be a solidarity march at 5:00 p.m. starting in Cabot Square, according to We Are Powershift, a website listing events as far away as Vancouver and New York City. In Ottawa people were planning to meet at the Humans Rights Monument at 5:00, march over to Parliament and meet up with another group conducting a sit-in that has been under way since 5:30 p.m. Thursday October 17.
Support ranged far afield, including a demonstration to be held from 4 to 6pm outside the Canadian Embassy in New York City. And on Vancouver Island, demonstrations and events were held on Friday and planned throughout the weekend.
The support was not relegated to First Nations, either. As far north as Nunavut, the Inuit scheduled an Elsipogtog Solidarity March in Iqaluit from the RCMP building to the NLCA Monument, starting at 4:45 p.m. and lasting until 7:45 p.m.
More events were being listed all day on Google Docs.
Reaction also extended beyond the grassroots, with indigenous leaders, too, expressing concern and support. The Mi'kmaq have been protesting the studies since June.
“The safety and well being of all parties involved are of paramount importance at this time. And our intentions for safety lie with the people from Elsipogtog First Nation and all those on site in New Brunswick right now,” said Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. “We fully support and stand in solidarity with First Nations in their quest to protect lands and water. We call on the Province of New Brunswick and industry to respect and honor the duty to consult aboriginal peoples and accommodate their concerns and respecting the rights and standards affirmed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples including free, prior and informed consent as a minimum standard for engagement with indigenous peoples on matters of significant concern.”
They called for a stop to the exploration pending consultation with Elsipogtog First Nation.
“We are shocked by yesterday’s developments and we pray for the safety of Chief Aaren Sock, his community members and other land defenders who are at the site on Elsipogtog First Nation traditional lands,” said Stan Beardy, head of the Chiefs of Ontario as well as the regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations. “It is past time now to call a halt to the physical exploration work and engage Elsipogtog First Nation in a respectful dialogue. In my view, this course is in the best interests of everyone and all concerned.”