A judge has lifted the injunction against Mi’kmaq anti-fracking protesters in New Brunswick, but those arrested in last week’s protests in New Brunswick were still being held late Tuesday pending their court appearances.
As Elsipogtog First Nation Chief Aaren Sock called for a cooling-off period in the wake of the violent protests late last week against shale gas exploration near the band’s territory, videos surfaced of the melee, along with conflicting accounts.
The RCMP said they had confiscated arms and other weapons. Many who were at the protest, though, said it was the police who started the conflagration, moving in stealthily, clad in camouflage fatigues, surrounding the peaceful protesters as they slept. Video shows a chaotic scene, with people screaming at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to stop pointing guns and call off their dogs. The protest had proceeded peacefully for weeks.
Support continued to pour in as well, with celebrities such as Susan Sarandon chiming in with a tweet about the protests, which came to a head on Thursday October 17 with police cars burning, Molotov cocktails allegedly thrown and rubber bullets fired. All but nine of the 40 people arrested were released. Nine are awaiting various court appearances, but funds are being raised to post bail.
Provoked or no, this fight was well witnessed and well documented, thanks to modern technology that allowed gripping images and video to be broadcast in real time as events unfolded. Below are 10 of the most dramatic moments from that fateful day and its aftermath.
1. The Conflict
This footage taken at some point during the conflict shows heavily armed police moving in and even tackling some people.
2. The Eagle Feather
The woman in this iconic photo has since been revealed as Amanda Polchies, armed with nothing but an eagle feather before a wall of blue.
3. The Women
Women, charged with caretaking the water, were at the forefront of this protest. With their children standing by, they fearlessly faced down police.
4. The Burning Police Cars
This photo, which people snapped from their television screens and posted on Twitter and other social media, was the type of action that the RCMP used to justify its actions. However, numerous people said that the cars only started burning after the arrest of Sock and his tribal council.
5. The Tactics
As police poured into the sleeping camp, some crouched down in the fields, wearing fatigues, and aimed what looked like rifles. The Mi’kmaq, according to reports, had been conducting a blockade for weeks that let local traffic through and merely kept SWN Resources Canada from accessing its equipment to conduct seismic tests for oil and gas reserves. With SWN losing $60,000 a day, police decided not to wait for a hearing on the injunction, which had told the Mi’kmaq to stand down and cease blockading. Instead the RCMP moved in to enforce the injunction.
6. The Force
Reports flew of rubber bullets being fired and tear gas lobbed by police, as did accounts of people being kicked and otherwise roughed up. These people were hosed down.
7. The Wounds
As reports of the RCMP’s tactics surfaced, so did photos and allegations of police brutality. Here, Mi’kmaq lawyer Amy Sock reveals bruises she said she received while in custody.
8. The Support
Spontaneous demonstrations were held throughout Turtle Island all through the ensuing weekend and into Monday, as far away as Vancouver and New York City. This march in Vancouver was just one such show of support.
9. The Celebs
At least one celebrity, movie star and staunch rights and environmental activist Susan Sarandon, spoke out in support of the protests and the Mi’kmaq. Sarandon did so via Twitter.
10. The Memes
The inevitable memes surfaced, one using the famed eagle feather shot to contrast the RCMP's level of attention to missing women with the attention being given to live, accounted-for Mi'kmaq women who were causing trouble.
Another noted the irony of a phalanx of drum-beating women being met by RCMP anti-riot officers toting rifles and sporting combat gear.