RCMP actions under scrutiny after arrests at shale gas protest
The actions of the RCMP are under scrutiny after officers arrested three people at a shale gas protest outside Moncton on Wednesday.
Protesters say their demonstration was peaceful, the police presence was excessive and their use of force was unnecessary.
“Overly forceful, way more police than was necessary,” says protester Peter Dauphinee. “These are very peaceful crowds, very, very peaceful people of about 100.”
Dozens of protesters, including First Nations, environmentalists and area residents, set up along Route 126, about eight kilometres north of Moncton, on Wednesday afternoon.
The protesters blocked seismic testing trucks and police set up road blocks for several kilometres around the site, tying up traffic for several hours.
“It seemed like it could have stayed open, I don’t know why they had to close it,” says protester Angelina Iapaolo. “It didn’t make sense.”
Cpl. Chantal Farrah, a spokesperson for the RCMP, says the protest started off as a peaceful demonstration but police moved in after protesters started impeding traffic.
She says police told the protesters to move to allow the trucks to pass, and that most of them did, but some refused.
“After repeated communication, there were still three people that refused to listen and those three people were arrested,” says Farrah.
Police arrested a man from Kent County and a woman from Elsipogtog First Nation, both in their 40s.
They have since been released but are due in court on August 1 to face mischief charges.
A 16-year-old boy from St. Mary’s First Nation was also arrested. He has since been released without charges.
In an email statement, Chief Aaron Sock of Elsipogtog First Nation said:
“I am requesting that any demonstrations that take place be done peacefully and lawfully. We must never be afraid to raise our voice to protect our rights and interests, yet we must have the same resolve to do so peacefully.”
The testing vehicles left the scene under police protection at approximately 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The trucks returned to the site on Thursday.
In an email statement, shale gas developer SWN Resources Canada says that “if a commercially viable resource exists, then relationships with First Nations will be integral to achieving a goal of safe and responsible development in the province that First Nations can proudly participate in without compromising their rights, values and traditions.”
Brad Walters, a professor of environmental studies at Mount Allison University, predicts the number and size of fracking protests will only increase.
“A combination of things coming together here…there is this network of over 30 groups across the province who are talking to each other and are very strongly opposed to shale gas development,” says Walters.
Protesters did not return to the site on Thursday, but they say they will be back soon.
With files from CTV Atlantic's David Bell