New Brunswick has been a hotspot ever since the RCMP came rolling in with a military-style assault on peaceful activists who had been blockading seismic equipment in Rexton, NB, this past Thursday. The blockade had been peaceful for the previous 3 weeks until pepper spray, assault rifles, and physical assault on people arrested became part of the fray.
But let’s not get caught up in a discussion about violence like the media and politicians want, ok? The vast majority were peaceful and want the actions to remain peaceful.
But why are they there? Those along the 134 in Kent County were blocking the compound that held seismic testing trucks (thumper trucks) that were going to be used by SWN – South Western Energy – in the region. SWN had done some seismic earlier in the summer, and were met with opposition at that time as well. The Elsipogtog First Nation and other community groups (including Our Environment, Our Choice and Upriver Environment Watch, as well as the Fredericton and Moncton chapters of the Council of Canadians) were active all summer (see here and here).
And more importantly as to why they are there: to protect the water, the land, the people. Because despite the facts, the government of New Brunswick is not willing to stop this from going forward. Because despite the support from Mayors in Kent County (14 out of 15 Mayors voted to pass) for a community ordinance to ban fracking, it is still going ahead. Because despite The Assembly of First Nations' Chiefs in New Brunswick calling on the province to revoke shale gas exploration permits issued to oil and gas companies until a peaceful solution to the dispute can be negotiated, Premier Alward will continue to push this forward.
And so the opposition regroups and remains strong.
Lawyer Amy Sock of Elsipogtog was severely roughed up by RCMP during her arrest last Thursday, and when I met with her on Sunday she had a hard time moving. “They didn’t break my spirit”, she said.
People at the site were so appreciative of the support they are getting from across the country and around the world, including from the Council of Canadians. After assessing the needs of the camp on Saturday, Ali and I went shopping and purchased a generator for the kitchen area with extension cord and floodlights and a tarp. The Council of Canadians has also given financial support to the legal fund.
Ali Vervaeke (Atlantic regional office assistant) and I participated in the Global Frackdown event in Moncton on Saturday, organized by the Moncton chapter of the Council. There were about 150 people there with signs and smiles, lining the side of the road. It was hard to have a conversation with all the beeps of support!
Then we went to the site in Rexton where there was a talking circle followed by prayer and drumming when we arrived, with at least 100 people there. I stayed overnight in Elsipogtog (thanks, Angie Okay!) after my shopping excursion in Moncton for the generator and other gear.
A community meeting happened in Elsipogtog yesterday and everyone was invited. About 200 people attended the session, which was a time for healing and reflecting and sharing experiences.
Today in the Moncton courtroom, the judge threw out SWN’s injunction on the blockade, to cheers from the crowded room.