First Nations protesters in New Brunswick, Canada, have protested plans to drilling for shale gas using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves injecting high-pressure mixtures of water and chemicals into underground formations. / Bloomberg
Several police cars were torched and at least 40 people arrested Thursday during an anti-fracking protest near native land in Maritime Canada.
The violence erupted after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police moved in to arrest demonstrators and remove a blockade that members of the Elsipogtog First Nation erected two weeks to stop a shale gas project in Rexton, New Brunswick. The Elsipogtog claim hydraulic fracturing, popularly known as fracking, could irreparably damage their land and the surrounding area.
Witnesses estimated that at least 100 police faced off against several hundred demonstrators, according to news reports.
Protesters were arrested for firearms offenses, threats, intimidation, mischief and not abiding a court injunction forbidding the blockade of an SWN Resources Canada compound. Elsipogtog Chief James Arren Sock was among those arrested, CBC News reported.
The RCMP said some protesters threw Molotov cocktails, and at least five police cruisers were destroyed. A former Elsipogtog chief told the Globe and Mail that "everybody got mad" after the arrests and that Mounties chased the crowd to a line of police cars. She reported seeing six in flames.
At least one shot was fired at Mounties, the RCMP said. Protesters reported that police fired plastic bullets and used pepper spray.
No injuries were reported.
"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," Constable Jullie Rogers-Marsh of the New Brunswick RCMP said in a news release.
But native leaders said police provoked the confrontation by arriving with guns drawn.
"It is really very volatile. It's a head-to-head between the people and the RCMP right now and the warriors are in the middle surrounded by the RCMP and then the RCMP are surrounded by the people," said Susan Levi-Peters, a former Elsipogtog First Nation chief, who has been an intermediary during the dispute.
Melina Augustine, who was arrested for obstruction, described to CTV News Atlantic what happened.
"It just got wild and they all tackled us down," she said, adding that her 67-year-old mother was among those subdued.
"They were shooting. â?¦ I don't know what they were shooting, I wasn't looking," Augustine said.
Rober Levi, a tribal councillor, told The Canadian Press that chief Sock "was manhandled a little bit and all hell broke loose."
He said protesters would remain, despite the injunction. "This is what our people have been fighting for," he said.
Global News has more video from Thursday's clash.
SWN Resources Canada wants to begin seismic testing before extracting shale gas. Opponents claim the process, which involves injecting water and chemical into the ground under high pressure, contaminates drinking water, damages the environment and endangers human health. Proponents claim fracking is safe.
Two weeks ago, Sock issued an "eviction notice" as protesters prevented the oil-and-gas company from moving its equipment. Last week, he and Premier David Alward agreed to have their representatives seek a resolution to the dispute.
Copyright 2013 USATODAY.com
Read the original story: Cop cars burned, 40 arrested at Canada fracking protest