Facebook and Twitter are bringing protesters together faster than before, but social media is also creating challenges for police trying to keep everyone safe.

Police in Winnipeg admit that getting a handle on "pop-up protests" has been difficult in the age of social media, as events can be organized within a matter of hours.

Elsipogtog solidarity protest

Protesters hold signs outside the Manitoba RCMP headquarters in Winnipeg on Thursday in support of Mi'kmaq demonstrators in Rexton, N.B., who clashed with police during a protest against shale gas exploration in the region. (Lyza Sale/CBC)

That was the case on Thursday, when protesters blocked afternoon rush-hour traffic in solidarity with Mi'kmaq demonstrators in Rexton, N.B., who clashed with police earlier in the day during a protest against shale gas exploration in that region.

As word of the solidarity protest in Winnipeg spread, marchers made their way from The Forks to Portage Avenue and Main Street, snarling traffic in one of the city's busiest intersections.

"Indian telegraph is amazing, but also we used social media with Facebook," said Jo Seenie, one of the protest participants.

Commuters also took to social media to air their frustration with the protesters, with some saying they were late to pick up their children and others saying they just wanted to get home.

Winnipeg police say some of their resources were tied up with Thursday's pop-up protest.

"Uniform members that are out normally doing other duties were tasked with attempting to control this, so very difficult to contain those people," Const. Eric Hofley told reporters on Friday.

Police say they are trying to figure out how to get ahead of what's going on on social media, but those at Thursday's protest say they'll hit the street when it's necessary.

"Whichever means necessary needs to be done, we'll do," Seenie said.

Did not have parade permit

The protesters did not have a parade permit, but police did not shut down the march.

Instead, the group was given an escort as people marched west along Portage Avenue to the RCMP headquarters.

"We always have in our mind that we don't want to escalate the situation," said Hofley.

In Winnipeg, a permit is needed for a protest or gathering involving more than 30 people, as a matter of public safety.

If the participants are marching down the street, police will escort them to keep them safe and keep things moving.

It's for that reason that permits are not issued during the rush hour, according to police.