Above: The day after a violent confrontation between RCMP and people protesting shale gas development, many accuse the N.B. government of siding with an oil and gas company. Ross Lord reports.
REXTON AND MONCTON, N.B. – There is an uneasy calm in eastern New Brunswick following a violent end to a shale gas protest on Thursday.
But many of those involved in the demonstration aren’t giving up on their fight and have gained support across the country.
Gerard Miller said it was a matter of defending his right to access clean water when he decided to be one of the first to charge through an RCMP barricade at the scene of the protest.
“I said we need to stand up to these guys. We can’t let them push us around,” he said. Miller was one of the 40 people RCMP arrested on Thursday, when Mounties arrived in riot gear to dismantle the three-week-old demonstration.
WATCH: Rexton protestors on edge after violent confrontation. Natasha Pace reports.
The protesters had formed a blockade in front of a lot where seismic testing equipment owned by SWN Resources was being stored.
SWN Resources has been conducting exploration for shale gas deposits in New Brunswick since 2010.
Its operations have been repeatedly met with protests, which forced it to cease operations for a period in 2011.
SWN Resources got a court injunction on Oct. 3 to have the protest dismantled.
It was hoped talks between the protesters — which included members of the nearby Elsipogtog First Nation and other First Nations — the company and the government would help the situation come to a peaceful end.
But, the injunction was due to expire on Friday. RCMP were acting on that injunction Thursday morning.
The company claimed it has lost $60,000 a day since while its equipment has been blocked.
SWN Resources has now asked for that injunction to be extended indefinitely. A judge will rule on that request on Monday.
One of the protesters listed on that injunction was Anne Pohl. She said she and other opponents to shale gas exploration aren’t giving up.
“We’ve been talking to the government for three years now. The government’s not listening to us, so our last port of call is here,” protester Anne Pohl said outside Moncton Provincial Court Friday morning.
Fellow defendant Willi Nolan, also listed on the injunction, wants a judicial review.
“What I did today was ask Judge Rideout to please take some time and look at what is going on here,” Nolan said. “The courts need to look at all levels [at] what is happening here in New Brunswick and question it now.”
WATCH: The situation in Rexton became a legal matter when a court injunction was drawn up on October 3rd. Laura Brown explains.
Neither Nolan nor Pohl were arrested as a part of the injunction enforcement on Thursday.
Of the 40 people arrested on Thursday, 31 were released with notices to appear at a later date.
But eight people were charged with obstruction, unlawful confinement, mischief, breach of an undertaking to keep the peace. As well, one person was charged with careless handling of a firearm.
WATCH: Solidarity protests held across the Maritimes. Mayya Assouad reports.
Some of the protesters are questioning what weapons the RCMP used when officers came to break up the blockade.
Suzanne Patless said police hit her in the head with the butt of a gun.
“The cops they beat me down, they threw me down on the ground,” she told reporters outside the Moncton court house.
She said she was detained by 10:00 a.m., so she didn’t see much of what unfolded throughout the day at the protest site.
It was after protesters pushed through the police line, officers moved in to disperse the crowd.
RCMP assistant commissioner Roger Brown addressed the police use of force on Friday, saying officers acted with “tremendous professionalism.”
He said at no time did any Mountie use a firearm, but he did confirm police used sock rounds — similar to bean bags — and pepper spray to clear the crowds.
“Peaceful protest is one thing but when the situation deteriorates to a point where it is no longer safe, where the general public is not safe, I as a commanding officer, the criminal operations officer have no choice but to react,” Rogers told media at press conference in Fredericton Friday afternoon.
WATCH: RCMP assistant commissioner discusses dispersing protesters in Rexton, N.B. Emily Baron Cadloff reports.
RCMP also displayed some of the weapons and what they said were improvised explosive devices found at the scene of the blockade.
“What would someone from the general public expect of us and how would they expect us to respond knowing that this is the type of thing that we find,” he said.
Among the items put on display were knives, bear spray, ammunition and firearms.
He also dismissed rumours police infiltrated the crowd of protesters and that Mounties set their own cars on fire as a diversion.
He said the RCMP respected the right to peaceful demonstration, but this situation was no longer safe and not a peaceful protest at that point.
Brown said he was “thankful” nothing worse happened.
But, Patless said the incident was a violation of indigenous rights and disrespected the open communication they had with the RCMP prior to Thursday.
Brown said the RCMP have long had a good working relationship with First Nation communities and that Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock — who was also arrested at the protest — did not approve of the violent actions of some of those involved.
New Brunswick Premier David Alward is promising to keep the lines of communication open with the First Nation community of Elsipogtog in hopes of preventing more violence during shale gas protests.
Alward met with Sock and other officials for more than three hours Friday night in Fredericton
The meeting ended without any specific strategies to keep the peace, but both sides say they will meet again next week to continue discussions.
In the meantime, Sock says his community needs time to heal.
He calls yesterday’s protest a “black mark” on his community, the province and the RCMP.
*With files from Natasha Pace, Emily Baron Cadloff, Laura Brown, Julia Wong, Mayya Assouad, Ross Lord and The Canadian Press