New Brunswick

SWN injunction extension fuels protester frustration

An anti-shale gas protest near Rexton was relatively quiet on Tuesday, compared to Monday night when nearly 100 people burned tires and blocked Highway 11.

Highway 11 blocked with tire fire after judge extended SWN injunction to keep protesters away

Anti-shale gas protesters danced around a tire fire on Highway 11 near Rexton on Monday night. (Twitter)

Highway 11 near Rexton was relatively quiet on Tuesday, with only about 40 anti-shale gas protesters gathered.

There were no signs of SWN Resources Canada's exploration trucks, or RCMP officers at the site, still black with ash from a fire Monday night, said CBC's Tori Weldon.

More than 100 people burned tires, trees and other debris in the middle of the highway after a judge agreed to extend SWN Resources Canada's injunction to keep protesters from interfering with the company's exploration work in the area.

Some of the protesters held hands and danced around the fire, blocking the highway in both directions for several hours.

RCMP say the crowd dispersed around midnight and crews managed to clear the highway by between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. Tuesday.

'Dangerous situation for all involved'

On Tuesday, anti-shale gas protesters returned to the site of Monday night's tire fire along Highway 11 near Rexton. (Tori Weldon/CBC)
​No one was arrested, but there was a "significant" police presence and the matter is still under investigation, said Const. Damien Thériault.

"It was illegal, it created a dangerous situation for all involved, and the resulting damage to the highway will be an inconvenience and a cost to all citizens," he said.

Elsipogtog elder Rebecca Sanipass says the fiery blockade shows the level of frustration and anger protesters are feeling about the injunction extension.

"Unfair. This is unfair," she said. "This is only going to prolong the whole situation with the communities, where they should have left."

Under the terms of the injunction, protesters must stay 20 metres away from the side of roads where the company is working and 250 metres away from the front or back of its trucks.

SWN Resources now has until Dec. 17 to complete its seismic mapping of the area.

Alfred Sock agrees the injunction extension is fuelling protester frustration.

"They've been told they can protest, but not in the immediate area. So you know, what do you do? They're forced to protest in the back woods somewhere? What good is that?"

'Important to be here'

The blockades and highway fires aren't scaring people away, however. Melissa Doucet, a new mother from Dieppe, participated in the ongoing protest for the first time on Tuesday.

She said she wanted to see it for herself.

"It's quite peaceful," said Doucet. "People are very friendly and we're new so they introduced us to people," she said. "It's a gathering of people who believe in the same thing, so it's important to be here."

Gene Sock dressed as Santa Tuesday to try to bring some Christmas cheer to the protesters. He says they need it after many months spent outside in the cold and wet weather.

"It's almost Christmas, it's December now, this is the time to be jolly, to have a great spirit inside your heart and enjoy life," he said.

At least seven protesters were arrested Monday afternoon, and two people were taken to hospital with minor injuries after being struck by a vehicle.

Andrea Francis says she was struck by the same vehicle.

"I was walking past it and it moved out, didn't stop. And so it just hit me. And I had my sign, so I had to jump out of the way. And the guy was smiling," she said.

SWN has said it will suffer irreparable damage if it is unable to complete its work.


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