By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
REXTON,NB–Beneath an overcast October night veiling the moon, with police lights spraying the darkness red and blue, a group of four women walked up the exit ramp blocked by the RCMP cruisers.
As they lit thick strands of sweetgrass, two RCMP officers with flashlights approached them and asked what they were doing.
“We’re out here walking,” said one of the women.
The RCMP officer said he had no problem with them walking. He said the exit was shut down because the ramp led to a section of Route 134 that has been reduced to one-lane by the anti-fracking encampment that remains despite Thursday’s heavily armed RCMP raid on the site.
“We got some complaints from the public,” said the officer. “Some of them were concerned for their safety.”
“That’s funny, you guys on that side over there have a totally different story,” said one of the women.
“Listen to what I’m telling you, do your own opinion,” said the officer. “We have to deal with the complaints ourselves.”
The women had just returned from the exit ramp on the other side of Hwy 11, which was also blocked by RCMP cruisers. The officers there told them a different story. The women said they were initially told the exit was shut for public safety reasons stemming from an incident with CTV journalists, who were evicted from the site and were forced to leave behind a satellite truck.
CTV journalists were separated from their satellite truck by a small group of demonstrators early Saturday. The satellite truck has since been returned and none of the journalists were harmed. Global journalists were also separated from their vehicle and equipment, which have also been returned.
The women then asked the officer if they could smudge him with the smouldering sweetgrass, but he refused. The women then circled the RCMP cruisers, smoke trailing them.
After the smudging, the women gathered in a circle and began to drum and sing.
About an hour after the women finished their singing and drumming, the RCMP opened the exits.
Back at the encampment people gathered around fires amid more drumming and singing as rumours swirled of police cars amassing here, or travelling there and fears of impending action.
In nearby Richibucto, RCMP officers were seen by an APTN National News reporter packing riot gear into duffle bags which were put in police cruisers.
A senior officer at the detachment said he was on standby for word from his command.
Hours earlier, over 100 Mi’kmaq and supporters briefly blocked a main highway in New Brunswick Saturday afternoon in response to the RCMP raid.
Shortly after 2 p.m. local time, waving red and white Mi’kmaq and red Mohawk Warrior flags the group marched a few hundred metres from the remains of the raided encampment and occupied the Hwy 11 overpass that crosses above Route 134.
Hwy 11 runs north from Moncton to the Miramichi and onto Bathurst,
The blockade lasted a little over an hour and ended amid rumours a heavy police reaction was headed toward the scene.
The encampment sits about 15 kilometres northeast of Elsipogtog First Nation, which has been at the heart of anti-fracking actions, and 80 kilometres north of Moncton.
“We are not going to turn around and we are not going to back down from what we are protecting. The government is not going to scare us in any way,” said one camouflaged-clad women going by the name of Spiked Black.
“Think about your future generations and your grandchildren. Would you like them to grow up in a chemical desert,” said Jason Milliea, from Elsipogtog First Nation.
The RCMP raid, which included camouflaged clad officers wielding assault weapons and firing rubber bullets, has done little to dissuade people here. In some ways, it has increased their resolve to keep up the opposition to shale gas exploration in the area. The raid freed exploration trucks owned by Houston-based SWN Resources which had been trapped by the encampment. SWN is conducting shale gas exploration in the area.
The RCMP’s announcement it had seized three rifles, ammunition and improvised explosive devices also had little impact here.
Several individuals who spoke to APTN National News on condition of anonymity said they didn’t know who the weapons belonged, quickly adding that it was an Aboriginal right to hunt.
Thursday’s raid led to 40 arrests and a day of chaos on Route 134. Several RCMP vehicles were torched and their burned-out shells still sit along the road.
One local resident, a mother whose children attend an English school in the area expressed exasperation at the RCMP for not removing the charred remains.
The events that day have since sparked sympathy actions across the province and the country.
All eyes are now on Elsipogtog.
Assembly of Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak visited the encampment late Saturday night.
The Assembly of First Nation of New Brunswick Chiefs issued a statement condemning the actions at the encampment and Saturday’s blockade, including hostility toward the media.
“The Chiefs fully endorse (Elsipogtog) Chief Aaron 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,” said the statement.