October 20, 2013 10:22 am

Journalist receives apology after car, camera equipment seized at N.B. shale gas protest site

Video: A Global New Brunswick reporter and other journalists had their vehicles and camera equipment seized while covering the ongoing shale gas protests in Rexton, N.B. on Saturday. 

UPDATE: Global News reporter Laura Brown was called up on stage at a Elsipogtog, N.B. townhall meeting and received an apology from First Nations members for Saturday’s standoff against media outlets.

Hours after a threatening confrontation at the site of an ongoing anti-shale gas protest in northeastern New Brunswick, a Global News reporter was able to safely retrieve her vehicle and camera equipment.

Members of a local Mi’kmaq First Nation community who were at the site of the Rexton, N.B. demonstration were able to escort Global‘s Laura Brown to her vehicle late Saturday afternoon.

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Brown was covering the aftermath of the violence that erupted in the area Thursday when RCMP, acting on a court injunction, moved in to disperse a three-week-long blockade of seismic testing equipment owned by SWN Resources.

Read More: What is shale gas, and why are people protesting against testing for it?

Brown was among a group of reporters looking at the wreckage of a police vehicle that was torched on Thursday, demonstrators clashed with RCMP officers armed with riot gear.

On Saturday morning, Brown and another reporter were subjected to threats and later had their equipment seized.

Hours later, a large group of protesters blocked a section of Route 11, between Moncton and Miramichi, with a chain link fence. The routes have since been reopened.

Watch: Global New Brunswick reporter Laura Brown says she felt her safety was under threat when her vehicle and camera equipment seized while covering the ongoing shale gas protests in Rexton, N.B.

Speaking on the phone from the Richibucto RCMP detachment, shortly after her vehicle and equipment were taken, Brown emphasized this was a group of just five people and that it was not indicative of the people whom she has spoken with in the past while covering ongoing anti-shale gas protests.

She was able to retrieve her vehicle and equipment just after 4:00 p.m., several hours after the confrontation.

Here’s how the incident played out.

Brown says she and other journalists were suddenly threatened to leave the area.

From there, the situation escalated quickly:

Brown was denied requests to have her camera returned to her, saying that it had been seized along with her vehicle.

She and the other reporters are currently safe with the RCMP.

Brown reaffirmed it was a small group of people that was not representative of the protest as a whole.

Shaw Media’s Senior Vice President of Global News and Station Operations Troy Reeb issued a statement concerning the intimidation tactics and seizure of Global News property.

Global News has successfully recovered its news-gathering vehicle and camera equipment which was unlawfully seized Saturday morning by a small group of protesters in Rexton, New Brunswick,” Reeb said.

“The intimidation of Global New Brunswick reporter Laura Brown and other journalists, along with the theft of their equipment, must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.Formal complaints in regards to these actions have been filed with the RCMP.”

We appreciate that the actions targeting reporters were not representative of all members of the Elsipogtog First Nation, and we appreciate the public support of Chief Arren Sock as well as the private efforts of members of the community who assisted in the safe return of our assets,” Reeb said.

Video: There is some calm tonight at the site of an anti-fracking protest in Rexton, NB after a flare up earlier in the day. Julia Wong reports.

The Assembly of First Nation’s Chiefs in New Brunswick (AFNCNB) issued a statement Saturday afternoon condemning the “intimidation against representatives of the media.”

“The Chiefs fully endorse [Elsipogtog First Nation] Chief Arren Sock’s call for peace, and agree emphatically that a cooling off period is required. This means an end to violent protests, an end to the blockades, and an end to violence by all parties in all its forms,” the statement from AFNCNB spokesperson Mike Girard said.

“We echo Chief Arren: ‘We urge that all manifestations of support be peaceful, do not block roads and simply aim at respectfully communicating the First Nation point of view on our rights.’”

Global News spoke with a member of the Elsipogtog First Nation who saw the incident happen.

He said the group that threatened Brown and seized her vehicle were not a part of the core group of protesters.

“They were just angry people,” he said in a phone interview.

He was a part of a group of protesters who have been controlling traffic along the highway.

He said he witnessed the confrontation and went over to make sure no one was harmed.

Some protesters, who the mean said are native and non-native alike, have referred to themselves as “warriors” — protecting their land, water and rights.

RCMP, acting on a court injunction, moved into the area on Route 134 outside Rexton, arrived at the scene of the three-week-old blockade Thursday morning.

Police armed with riot gear used pepper spray and sock rounds to disperse a large crowd of demonstrators after some of the demonstrators charged the police line. People involved in the protest allege police used rubber bullets as well, but Mounties deny that claim.

Mounties arrested 40 protesters before the end of the day.

Six police vehicles were set on fire by people taking part in the demonstration.

SWN Resources, has been conducting exploration for shale gas in various parts of New Brunswick since 2010. The company has been the subject of repeated protests and even suspended testing at one point due to opposition to its operations.

The company claims it has lost $60,000 a day since the blockade began. SWN Resources was granted the injunction on Oct. 3. It was due to expire on Friday. The company has asked for the injunction to be extended indefinitely. A Moncton judge will rule on a decision to extend the injunction next week.

WATCH: The situation in Rexton became a legal matter when a court injunction was drawn up on October 3rd. Laura Brown explains in this Friday, Oct. 18 report.

The protesters taking part in the blockade, which include members of the nearby Elsipogtog First Nation and other First Nations groups, have been demanding a halt to seismic testing for shale gas deposits in the province.

READ MORE: Anti-shale gas protesters vow not to give up after Rexton, N.B. clash

Elsipogtog First Nation Chief Arren Sock was among those arrested and released on Thursday.

He met with N.B. Premier David Alward Friday evening to discuss the ongoing stalemate over shale gas exploration in the province and Thursday’s melee.

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 The Canadian Press

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