What the frack?

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A protestor stands against advancing police forces. /Matt Thor

A protestor stands against advancing police forces. /Matt Thor

Protests against proposed fracking heat up in N.B.

Article: Alec Salloum – News Writer

Protests against Southwestern Energy (SWN) and proposed fracking developments came to a head on Oct. 17 near Elsipogtog, New Brunswick.  The clash was between members of the Mi’kmaq First Nation and RCMP.  Protests against SWN have taken place over the course of 2013. Demonstrations manifested with routes to exploration sites being blocked, protestors chaining themselves to equipment and frequent marches, theft of SWN vehicles and makeshift blockades being established.

On the morning of Oct. 17, the RCMP was moving to blockades outside of Rexton near SWN storage to enforce a court ordered injunction, essentially a cease and desist order, against the protestors.  The blockade was established on Route 134 that restricted SWN reaching prospective sites for seismic testing.  When the protestors did not comply, rubber bullets and tear gas was fired into the crowds, forcing dispersal.  The events of that morning saw 40 Mi’kmaq arrested, six of who were jailed and face 37 charges.  These men were all members of the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society, who have been responsible for establishing blockades.  So far, two of the six were released on bail with the others waiting for Nov. 1 for a chance to appeal.

The RCMP used substantial force when raiding the barricade that consisted of peaceful non-aggressive participants.  Photos from the day surrounding the event are startling.  Sniper divisions were deployed.  Heavily armored riot patrols were sent. When questioned on the usage of force, Constable Jullie Rogers-Marsh explained that the RCMP was walking into an “extremely high risk” situation. Going on to say, “We were informed of firearms at the protest camp, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and even improvised explosive devices. The situation was extremely dangerous.” The protestors did, however, set fire to several police cars; used Molotov’s and recently have set fires outside the N.B. RCMP detachment.

An APTN reporter was in the thick of the encounter and reported on the tense and racially charged encounter.  One camo-clad officer allegedly shouted, “Crown land belongs to the government, not fucking natives.”  This occurred while officers advanced on the blockade, adorned in riot gear with dogs in tow.  There are also allegations that private security was hired by SWN in days leading up to the clash.

The protesters are concerned that if SWN finds natural gas under shale fields that they will begin fracking.  This raises concerns over the environmental impacts of this dirty method of extraction.  Fracking is a controversial method of mining as it utilizes an absurd amount of chemicals that can pose threats to air quality and especially water supply.  Recently a fracking incident resulted in the contamination of groundwater in Cold Lake, Alberta.  Quebec has recently outlawed fracking, given its environmental impact.

The protestors have received an outpouring of support through social media.  In fact, the hacktivist online collective Anonymous has pledged their support of the Mi’kmaq people and their aims, beginning #OpFrackOff.

The Mi’Kmaq are only one of the many First Nations demanding determination of mineral exploration and extraction on their territory.   Ottawa, Winnipeg, Hamilton and South Ontario have seen acts of solidarity in support of First Nations rights to determination over mineral rights.  This has seen a major resurgence with the Idle No More movement.

As of Oct. 24, Elsipogtog Chief, Aaron Sock, has announced his plan to go to court in an effort to definitively determine who own the land.  In statements made to CBC he said, “Let’s settle it once and for all. Let’s go to court.”

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