RCMP defend response at site of shale gas protest
The RCMP say they had no choice.
Showing off rifles, knives and ammunition seized from First Nations protesters in Rexton, New Brunswick.
The Mounties say they had to act.
“It came to a point in time where we knew that this situation was no longer safe,” explains New Brunswick RCMP Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown. “We had to do something before it turned into a situation where, regrettably, somebody could’ve been injured or even killed.”
Police did not have all the weapons seized on display Friday afternoon.
Improvised explosive devices were also seized and RCMP say they could’ve proven lethal.
“They’re larger, commercial grade fireworks that had been modified to discharge shrapnel in the form of either shot-gun pellets or small, crushed rocks packed inside cylinders in a manner similar to what you would see in a shot-gun cartridge,” says New Brunswick RCMP Chief Superintendent Wayne Gallant. “A larger, cylindrical-shaped item was packed with rocket motor engines and a warhead style projectile.”
Yesterday’s action came after almost two weeks of negotiations.
Police raided an encampment established to protest exploration for natural gas in and around the Elsipotog First Nation.
New Brunswick Premier David Alward wasn’t notified of the raid until after it happened.
He says police acted, in part, against criminal elements from outside the province.
What I can say is there were outside influences,” says Alward. “What I can say is the encampment that was in Kent County, the RCMP made an evaluation that that was not safe for people, we have heard the reports that have said there were weapons there of various types, so this was not a law-abiding, peaceful demonstration.”
As police showed off the seized weapons a small, skeptical, vigil took place outside.
“This is guilty until proven,” says Patricia Saulis of Tobique First Nation. “Basically, there’s no saying that that stuff actually belonged to any of the protesters at the site.”
RCMP say while the situation has been defused, they fear it could flare up at any time.
They’re asking all parties to exercise calm.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Andy Campbell