Many questions remain, but what is clear is that on the morning October 17th the RCMP moved in on a peaceful protest against SWN – a fracking exploration company with equipment stationed in an Irving compound in Rexton, NB. That encampment was raided early in the morning, and mass arrests carried on into the afternoon at which point protestors torched numerous RCMP vehicles. From all accounts, the situation was extremely tense and could have easily spilled over into extreme violence or injury.
During the course of the stand off the RCMP erected a perimeter around the protest and refused entry to the public or media citing public safety concerns. No comment or spokesperson was ever provided on site by the RCMP and most news broke from within the encampment from remaining independent media sources inside and social media.
In the mid-afternoon the RCMP released their first press release – stating that 40 arrests had been made and that a shot had been fired at the RCMP by “someone other than police.”
At around 7:00pm the RCMP pulled back from their position, pulled down their police line and left the scene. Media immediately followed in to document the remains of the day – a united community, debris thrown about and various burned out vehicles.
The RCMP followed today with another release as well as announcement of the release via their twitter account @RCMPNB. Their release today showed photos of firearms and explosives they claim were retrieved from the site. Of the 40 arrested – 9 appeared in Moncton court today and almost all were remanded on bail until next Monday.
Cst. Jullie Rogers-Marsh provided some context to the release, however, refused to give comment on the amount of RCMP deployed or any kind of background what kind of units were deployed. She also did not know now if such information would later be made available via a freedom of information act request.
On the use of force Const. Marsh confirmed that pepper spray was deployed as well two rounds of sock rounds believed to be deployed in the early afternoon. Marsh rejected claims that rubber bullets were used saying, “it’s a misconception, people confuse sock rounds with rubber bullets.”
Marsh reiterated that the investigation is still on going into both the claims of threats made against SWN private security on the night following the raid, as well as the day itself. She believes there will be further charges as a result.
She confirmed that threats to Private Security of SWN on the night of the 16th were a pretext to the raid and also confirmed that those Security left the site on the night fearing personal safety. It is unclear what threat existed on site with those security gone.
As for the fire that broke out early in the morning at the Elsipogtog RCMP Office, she could not confirm that that fire had any connection to the events in the day but confirmed that investigation continues as well.
Asked what the RCMP response is moving forward Marsh repeated a statement in both press releases – “the RCMP respect everyone’s right to protest peacefully, as long as people are abiding by the law.”[hr]
Cst. Jullie Rogers-Marsh
Media Relation Officer
New Brunswick RCMP