Local residents lined the Main Street overpass to the Trans-Canada Highway Saturday at noon, holding a peaceful demonstration against fracking. DOHERTY PHOTO
SACKVILLE, N.B. – Sackville’s highway overpass was the site of a shale gas rally on Saturday, with about 60 residents and university students lending their voices to the ongoing anti-fracking movement in New Brunswick.
The rally, coming on the heels of last week’s events in Rexton, had originally been organized as part of ‘Global Frackdown’ day but also proved to be timely in a show of support for the protesters who had been demonstrating for weeks against the development of a shale gas sector in the province until police raided their blockade on Thursday.
Marilyn Lerch, a member of the Tantramar Alliance Against Hydrofracking (TAAH), said the purpose of the local protest was to not only raise greater consciousness of the issue but to also show that the Sackville-area is on-board with the ongoing grassroots efforts for a moratorium or ban on fracking.
“We wanted to show support for all the people in Rexton who have been protesting for several weeks now, “ she said, “and to also show we’re part of a global movement against unconventional shale gas mining.”
Global Frackdown is a worldwide event that saw activists from 26 countries take to the streets on Saturday to protest fracking technologies that extract hydrocarbons by pumping pressurized chemicals underground.
Lerch said the demonstration in Sackville, which was organized by the TAAH and a group of Mount Allison University students, was a peaceful one, with protesters waving signs and carrying banners on the overpass in support of the cause. She said there were “lots of honking horns in a show of support” for what they were doing.
“We’re feeling support,” she said, pointing out that the TAAH, which is a part of the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance, continues to maintain it has a right to protest in a peaceful manner.
Lerch said she was disappointed to learn of the actions taken last week to end a blockade of SWN Resources shale gas exploration activities, when things had been relatively peaceful up until that point.
She said there are many questions surrounding the developments last week, in which protesters clashed with police when the RCMP came in to enforce an injunction against them. She wondered who gave the order for what she called a “military assault” and said the resulting violence was not a true indication of the peaceful protests that had been ongoing at the site for the past several weeks.
During the raid, in which police said they were met with resistance, RCMP arrested at least 40 people for various offences including firearms offences, uttering threats, intimidation, mischief, and for refusing to abide by a court injunction.
"The RCMP has worked diligently with all parties involved in hopes for a peaceful resolution. Those efforts have not been successful. Tensions were rising and serious criminal acts are being committed," said Cst. Jullie Rogers-Marsh of the New Brunswick RCMP. "There have been threats made to employees who were working with a private security firm at the site, as well as firearms offences, incidents of intimidation, mischief and other criminal behavior. For those reasons, and to ensure public safety, police action was required."
The RCMP also seized a number of firearms from the encampment and also discovered improvised explosive devices, a large amount of ammunition, knives and bear spray.