Local governments are not being heard when it comes to decisions around shale gas in New Brunswick, says one protester who is also a member of the local government in the Rexton, N.B. area.
Allan Marsh is chair of the Local Service District (LSD) for Saint-Charles, located about 15 kilometres from where a clash between shale gas protesters and police Thursday prompted a violent reaction in which five RCMP vehicles were burned and 40 people arrested.
Marsh heard police were executing the injunction against protesters through social media, he said he went to the scene to ensure that things were recorded and people were safe.
“My biggest concern is the lack of respect and contempt that the government has shown for the people. [I had] concerns that someone would get hurt… and just to help, lend a voice,” he said.
Marsh, speaking to CBC’s Maritime Noon radio program, said he arrived at Thursday’s protest just as RCMP began firing "sock rounds" — also known as bean bag rounds, which are a type of non-lethal ammunition.
He said things escalated when RCMP fired the bean bag shots. He said police “wanted trouble. You don’t crawl through fields to serve an injunction with rifles aimed at women and children.
He was hit in the leg by a pellet.
“When I first arrived there were shots being fired … At that time you couldn’t tell it it was shotgun or rifle,” he said.
“I attempted to move closer and caught one pellet in my leg. Actually, it was stopped by my wallet. So it didn’t hurt too, too much but at that point [I] pretty much realized the police seemed to be firing un-aimed, random shots because I was actually, at the time, nowhere near the actual protest line.”
Marsh said he said watched as an elderly protester was arrested while praying with her rosary. He said that was a very upsetting moment, one of many that added to the emotional atmosphere at the scene.
When asked about his thoughts on the five patrol vehicles that were set on fire and destroyed but he said peaceful messages of protest are not getting through.
“It’s sad that it happened because ultimately, taxpayers, we pay for the police cars, but the government isn’t listening to any of the other messages that it’s getting. Not from its other elected members of the community, not from the LSD chairs, not from the mayors. You know we took a vote for a moratorium [on shale gas exploitation] and it was a 14 to one vote in Kent County,” he said.
Marsh said this conflict is not over.
“The movement is large. The government has got their head in a closet if they think that the movement isn’t large. There’s Liberals, there’s Conservative, there’s Green Party people -- that are all opposing [shale gas exploration].” he said.