Chaos has erupted as Chief Arren Sock and council members from Elsipogtog First Nation are among at least 40 people arrested by riot-gear-clad police raiding a Mi'kmaq blockade protesting shale gas exploration in New Brunswick.
Details are still emerging, but amateur photos and video have appeared online showing heavily armed police on the site and what appear to be snipers in nearby fields and forests. There are also photos of several police vehicles on fire. Those arrested, which may include elders conducting ceremonies at the site, are being detained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). There were also some reports of shots fired.
Early this morning, hundreds of RCMP moved in to the site of a blockade that had been set up on provincial route 134 near Rexton, New Brunswick. They were enforcing an injunction that would end the blockade set up by Mi'kmaq protesters and their supporters.
Tear gas and even rubber bullets were used during the RCMP raid. An untold number of protesters were arrested (some say more than 30), several reporting that they were “roughed up” by officers. Elders who had been conducting ceremonies at the site have been arrested as well.
Sock and at least one of his council members from the Elispogtog First Nation were among those rounded up by police and were being held by the RCMP. News of the police action spread fast on social media, and people near the protest say supporters are supposedly beginning to pour in from neighboring Nova Scotia but also as far away as Alberta.
More photos on social media show dozens of vehicles supposedly belonging to supporters lining the highway, arriving to support the Mi'kmaq.
Indian Country Today Media Network spoke with Floyd Augustine, who says he is currently in charge of the Mi'kmaq Warrior Society, a group who says they've been tasked with defending Mi'kmaq lands and communities. He says he's trying to rally what warriors were not arrested—including his own brother—and plan their next steps.
The protests began last spring, when Texas-based natural resources company SWN Canada began exploring for natural gas deposits in the region. Opponents to the exploration worry that it will soon lead to hydraulic fracturing, the practice known as fracking that involves injecting noxious chemicals into the ground to break out the oil and gas deposits.
At last report, police had donned riot gear, and APTN described the scene as “chaotic.” Elsipogtog Warriors told Indian Country Today Media Network that they have put out a worldwide call for Sacred Fires to begin, and blockades were set to run all over the country.
Reaction has reached all the way to New York City, where a protest is planned at 5:30 p.m. today in front of the Canadian Embassy.