From West Coast Native News SOURCE: http://westcoastnativenews.com/heavy-rcmp-presence-accompanies-swns-return/
Heavy RCMP presence accompanies SWN’s return
About 30 people from Elsipogtog and their supporters have set up a camp near Hwy 11 by Laketon, NB., where SWN Resources is expected to begin laying down geophones in preparation for seismic testing set for Wednesday.
The exploration area is about 46 kilometres north of Elsipogtog First Nation.
Elsipogtog War Chief John Levi said the RCMP presence may be larger than what was witnessed during the Oct. 17 raid of an anti-fracking camp that was blocking SWN’s vehicles in a compound owned by JD Irving Ltd.
“You never know what they are going to do,” said Levi. “They might be shooting their real guns this time, that is what I am worried about.”
Levi said he’s been getting calls and texts all morning from an RCMP liaison officer trying to speak to him.
“I don’t feel like to talking to them right now,” said Levi.
RCMP Const. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said the RCMP is monitoring the situation.
“Based on things that have happened previously, it would be irresponsible for us not to be in the area,” said Rogers-Marsh.
Rogers-Marsh said the RCMP is not there to protect SWN.
“We are not private security,” she said. “We have no issues as far as protesting, everybody has a right to do it as long as they do it peacefully and don’t break the law.”
SWN referred calls to communications firm Cape Consulting. Calls to senior consultant Tracey Stephenson went to voice mail.
About a dozen Mi’kmaq Warriors camped out overnight along Hwy 11. The group was joined by reinforcements on Tuesday morning and people there gathered around a small fire keeping warm.
SWN’s lawyer Michael Connors, who is a partner with East Coast law firm McInnes Cooper, met with several dozen people from the Elsipogtog First Nation and the surrounding communities late Sunday afternoon.
Connors told the people that SWN would withdraw a lawsuit against several community members if the Houston-based firm was allowed to finish its exploration work unimpeded.
The meeting was held at a longhouse erected at an anti-fracking encampment used over the past summer. The area sits off Hwy 116 near Elsipogtog First Nation.
Connors told the people in the longhouse that SWN would be working for 14 days and warned them not to block the company’s movements or they would face violence.
“I’m not asking anyone not to protest, but I am asking that we don’t do anything that would lead to violence,” said Connors, according to video of the meeting posted on Facebook by Brian Milliea. “Unfortunately, blockades lead to violence.”
Connors said SWN just wants to finish its work and leave the area.
“We don’t want violence and if we can get through two weeks then we will go away for awhile,” said Connors. “I am not saying we are not going to come back, we may not come back, but I think everybody needs some time, you know a break.”
Levi told Connors that the community would not be backing down.
“We are going to be there. Whatever happens, the ball is in your court. Whatever happens, you’re the ones who are going to make the calls,” said Levi, according to the nine minute video. “Us as Natives and the protectors of this land, we are going to protect it, it is our land, we never ceded this land and we are going to protect it before these waters are contaminated.”
A woman in the crowd, who identified as non-Native, also pledged opposition to the exploration.
“As non-Natives we are going to protect the future of our children,” said the woman, in the video. “So non-Natives and Natives are together.”
SWN has faced intense and prolonged opposition to its shale gas exploration work around Elsipogtog First Nation which exploded after heavily armed RCMP tactical units raided an anti-fracking camp along Route 134 on Oct. 17.
While the raid freed SWN’s trucks, it sparked day-long clashes between Elsipogtog residents and the RCMP. Several RCMP vehicles were torched and about 40 people were arrested.
People in Elsipogtog and surrounding communities fear the discovery of shale gas would lead to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The controversial extraction method is viewed by many as posing a dire threat to water sources.
Currently, Mi’kmaq War Chief, John Levi, has sent out the following message: “Calling out on all the support swn coming back Tuesday and will be thumping by Wednesday need all the support and RCMP wants to block all the roads for 3 days even hwy 11.”
Georgina Brennan Sock also sent out a message to activists and their allies: “New camp site in Laketon has about 15 people surrounded by about 20 rcmp vehicles, and rcmp are scattered everywhere please come in numbers.”
In a broader movement to end shake gas exploration, Avaaz is hosting a petition for New Brunwickers to sign to convince the province to allow a referendum into fracking and hopefully a moratorium on fracking.
Prelude to the Raid
Interview with Warrior Society District chief suggests Irving-owned security, RCMP, engaged in pre-October 17th charge trumping.
by Miles Howe
REXTON, NEW BRUNSWICK – The dominant police-fuelled discourse circulating is that on October 17th, the police were forced to raid an armed camp of anti-shale gas protestors along highway 134, near Rexton, New Brunswick.
Adding fuel to this narrative is the fact that the police have laid several charges, ranging from threats to assault to unlawful confinement, in relation to events that they claim occurred on October 15th and 16th.
The end result is a story in which the RCMP, despite drawing in Emergency Response Teams from Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and New Brunswick; despite raiding an until-then peaceful encampment with guns drawn in the pre-dawn on the 17th; despite firing numerous rounds of less-lethal ammunition into unarmed people at point blank range; and despite spraying men and women with pepper spray, were simply de-escalating a tense situation.
However, an interview with Signigtog District War Chief Jason Augustine – himself present at the encampment since it’s inception, and now facing numerous charges – begins to peel back the layers of the RCMP’s imagery, and presents a very different recounting of events that occurred over October 15th and 16th.
It’s a story that shows a clear attempt by Irving-owned Industrial Security Limited to taunt and bait members of the Warriors Society on October 15th and 16th – in some cases going directly against already-negotiated agreements that existed between the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society and the RCMP – in order to create a fiction in which the Warriors could be later charged with a variety of accusations that supposedly occurred on those two days.
It’s also a story that shows the RCMP negotiating in extremely poor faith..
Since late September, 2013, Irving-owned Industrial Security Limited was the main security unit patrolling the fenced-in compound where SWN Resources Canada’s equipment was being held along highway 134. Generally, and for the duration of the life of the encampment, there were between about four and ten security guards patrolling the fenced-in area.
The fenced-in compound had one main gate, at the corner closest to the access road to highway 134. But the fence around the compound itself was not a permanent structure, and pieces could quickly be latched and unlatched, creating make-shift gates at any desired point.
Indeed, because the one main gate opened onto the 134 access road, which had become one of the main traffic points of the encampment, Augustine notes that the Warrior Society and the RCMP had earlier negotiated that ISL shift changes would take place via an already-built back road that opened onto an off-ramp of highway 11.
ISL guards would leave the fenced-in compound at the extreme opposite corner of the compound, about 200 meters from the main gate, through a make-shift gate. This was a scenario that had been taking place in good faith for numerous days prior to October 15th.
“We had already set a negotiation [regarding] the backside [of the compound]”, says Augustine. “We made them a road where [ISL workers] could go in and back out. And each time the shift change started there were always two Warriors and four RCMPs [to escort the workers]. We negotiated that with Denise Vautour and Marc Robichaud (two of the RCMP’s negotiators). We negotiated that and we all said ‘That’s pretty good, we’re in a working [compromise] right now.’”
Yet on October 15th, in a situation that Augustine cannot remember happening during the duration of the encampment, an ISL security guard, later identified as former New Brunswick Highway Patrolman Gary Flieger, opened the front gate of the fenced-in compound and began wandering around an area of the encampment where a sacred fire had been lit.
He had crossed a line of cedar that had been placed on the gravel road in front of the sacred fire, and was standing – armed, according to Augustine – in front of the fire. This was where Coady Stevens, another member of the Warriors Society, found Flieger.
It is of particular importance to note that – according to Augustine – the Warrior Society and the RCMP had even negotiated for the possibility that an ISL security guard would want to come and pray at the sacred fire. The guards could come and pray any time they wanted, but neither they, nor anyone else, was permitted to bring weapons of any kind to the sacred fire.
“[ISL] already knew,” says Augustine. “When we negotiated the first time, when an ISL worker comes out to the sacred fire – because they were welcome, anytime they were welcome – as long as they don’t have any weapons. [But] they could come and pray with us anytime they want. And that was part of the negotiations. They could come out at any time and pray with us, or go out the back way and shift change then.”
Augustine describes a brief altercation that then took place, one that he suggests Flieger took to a physical level. But for one quick push of Flieger, and for escorting Flieger back through the front gate of the fenced-in compound, Coady Stevens – who remains incarcerated and who was denied bail – faces charges of assault, threats and unlawful confinement. All these charges are, of course, pre-October 17th.
Lost in the dominant narrative is why Flieger left the front gate of the compound on the morning of the 15th and wandered, armed, to a sacred fire. Lost also is how, with an already-built back gate that was frequently used, any of this constitutes unlawful confnement.
There was no shift change taking place at the time. Indeed shift changes took place at the exact other end of the fenced-in compound. If Flieger wanted to pray at the sacred fire, not something he had done during any of his other shifts, Augustine suggests that he was welcome to do so – provided he approached the fire unarmed.
This is especially problematic if, as Augustine suggests, RCMP negotiators Denise Vautour and Marc Robichaud had already negotiated these terms in good faith with the Warriors.
Augustine notes that on the evening of the 15th, RCMP negotiator Denise Vautour again texted him, asking about the altercation that had happened.
“On the night of the 15th I got a text from Denise [Vautour] saying ‘What’s going on down there? How come a Warrior is pushing ISL?’” says Augustine. “Right off the bat we told them ‘Hold it. ISL came out to the sacred fire with his weapon out. Remember when we negotiated that they’re not supposed to have weapons around the sacred fire.’ She said ‘OK, we didn’t know that.’ Then she asked if we could meet. I said ‘Yes, we’ve got to meet and talk about this and resolve this as quick as possible, in a peaceful way’…That night we all agreed that: ‘Yes, everything is peaceful again. Let’s keep it that way.’”
The morning of the 16th, apparently, was out of the ordinary as well. Augustine notes that ISL staff was being especially belligerent to the Warriors who were stationed at the fence.
“When I came out I told [ISL]: ‘Whoa guys you have to be peaceful,’” says Augustine. “This was from the RCMP. I told them right of the bat that we’d been negotiating all this time for peace, and that you guys have to cooperate with us.”
Several Warriors have been charged with threats related to the 16th of October. It is assumed that these charges are related to this series of verbal altercations.
Augustine notes that the Warriors had also already negotiated with the RCMP in order to create a neutral ‘no-go’ zone around the fenced-in compound, in order that ISL security working within the fenced-in compound would not be verbally harassed by over-exuberant activists.
“It was always a concern for their safety too,” says Augustine. “We wanted them safe, because we knew that they were only there for their jobs.
“That morning, when things were escalating, right off the bat we went to Denise [Vautour] and Marc [Robichaud] and said ‘You’ve got to help us. These guys are not being peaceful. You guys have got to help us bring in the RCMP instead of ISL.’”
Mid-morning of the 16th, another meeting was held between the Warriors Society and the RCMP. In effect, what was being negotiated was a replacement of ISL security – which over the last two days had begun to act in an aggressive manner – with an RCMP contingent that would either remain in the fenced-in compound or patrol the ‘no-go’ zone – and monitor SWN’s equipment. In the interim, Augustine notes that he asked for the Warriors to vacate the ‘no-go’ zone to de-escalate the situation.
According to Augustine, after analyzing the situation, RCMP negotiators Vautour and Robichaud came to a similar conclusion as the Warriors: It was ISL security who was escalating the situation, not the Warriors.
“Denise [Vautour] and Marc [Robichaud] came along and said: ‘Jason, the RCMP are coming now, they’re going to take [ISL] out for you. We finally realized that they’re the problem too.’ So they were taken out right away.”
Augustine notes that the security duty exchange between ISL and RCMP took place between 3 and 4pm.
By the night of the 16th, Aboriginal RCMP negotiators had been brought in, supposedly in an attempt to calm the situation. Augustine again notes that these new negotiators, a constable ‘Fraser’ from Saskatchewan and a constable Walter Denny from Nova Scotia, confirmed with him that it was ISL security who was acting in a provocative and aggressive manner.
“Fraser and Denny] said: ‘These guys were very disrespectful, and on your guys’ part, you guys were just here trying to keep the peace,” says Augustine. “'[ISL] was so disrespectful that they were even disrespectful to us, because we were Natives.’”
With RCMP officers now replacing the “disrespectful” ISL security force, Augustine notes that the Aboriginal RCMP negotiators made further attempts to court peace with the Warriors.
“That night, around 10pm, constable Fraser and constable Denny came up to us. They wrapped tobacco in red felt and told us: ‘From now on it’s going to be peaceful.’ And they handed me the tobacco,” says Augustine. “They handed it right to me and said: ‘This is for peace. We understand that you guys only want peace. So everything’s going to be peaceful now. Negotiations have to start now.’
“We took the tobacco, me and Jim [Pictou]. We all shook hands. And we gave them tobacco too. I took tobacco out of my cigarette pack, broke it, and gave one to Walter [Denny] and one to Fraser and I told them ‘Yes, it’s now peaceful now.’ I took the tobacco back to our sacred bag. We had a bag full of a lot of our sacred stuff; sweet grass, sage, buffalo sage and all the medicines that we have there. And they left.”
Having successfully negotiated for the removal of the ISL security team, to be replaced by a patrol of RCMP officers, and having been given tobacco by two Aboriginal negotiators who allegedly confirmed the disrespectful nature of the Irving-owned employees, Augustine notes that the rest of the evening of the 16th, up until the morning of the 17th, was entirely uneventful.
The raid of the 17th , in which dozens of RCMP officers surrounded the Warriors encampment with a variety of weaponry already drawn, was a surprise to Augustine, both in terms of the amount of armaments, but more importantly in terms of the RCMP’s intent of the night before.
“That morning when I woke up to do my traffic control, I started about 6:30,” says Augustine. “I got my coffee ready and I didn’t even start drinking my coffee when the RCMP came out with guns drawn on us. The night before was peaceful. Even the RCMP was kind of happy that it was peaceful now. Nobody was escalating. Everybody was laughing. Everybody was drumming. Even the RCMP would drive by and wave to us. They knew it was peaceful.
“But all of a sudden that October 17th morning…Holy. All of a sudden they came up with guns drawn…Where’s that peace?”
When analyzing the potential of ISL – and their Irving paymasters – knowingly crafting a scenario involving trumped up charges against members of the Warriors Society, all the while working in collusion with the RCMP – and their Crown paymasters – it is also important to remember that a public hearing against SWN’s injunction against protestors was set for the morning of October 18th in Moncton.
The injunction named all of New Brunswick – under John and Jane Doe – as being potentially on the legal hook for inhibiting SWN’s access to it’s seismic testing equipment. Pre-18th legal opinions put forward on social media sites suggested that the injunction didn’t have a legal leg to stand on – indeed the injunction was subsequently overturned – but it did serve the purpose of intimidating activists concerned about their own estates from attending the encampment.
The 18th, and the potential of the public hearing overturning the injunction, presented a situation that may well have seen a surgin renewal of people at the highway 134 encampment. Crafting a narrative to negate that potential through strange actions, including having ISL guards leaving a front gate not used for shift changes and approaching a sacred fire while armed, and taunting Warriors who had made a habit of not only peacefully escorting ISL security during shift changes, but feeding the guards with home-cooked meals, resulted in a series of pre-raid charges.
Just the narrative needed for a pre-18th raid.
With these charges in their back pocket, the RCMP was free to create an ‘escalating tension’ scenario that they could then feed to a mainstream press. Coupled with the photogenic imagery of burning police cars and a press conference with a table full of armaments – neither of which can be yet, if ever, attributed to members of the Warriors Society – and the justification for the pre-dawn raid was set.
According to Augustine, from one side of their mouths RCMP negotiators spoke of peace, offered gifts and agreed that it was ISL security who was the incendiary side of the equation. All the while, however, a series of pre-raid charges, which still hang over numerous members of the Warriors Society, was being levied against them.
Was the fix in for Mi’kmaq Warriors at Elsipogtog?
Signs point to some having prior knowledge October 17th was ‘take down’ day
by Miles Howe
MONCTON, NB–Coady Stevens, the first of six Mi’kmaq Warrior to appear on charges related to the anti-shale gas encampment along Highway 134, has been denied bail.
As bail hearings today continue for the five remaining incarcerated members of the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society, enough information is beginning to surface to suggest that the vicious pre-dawn RCMP takedown of the anti-shale gas encampment on the morning of October 17th was a well known fact among some before it happened.
This is not to suggest that these people necessarily knew of the severity or magnitude of the RCMP raid, or even what it would look like. On the other hand, the possibility that others knew of the raid on October 17th is becoming too real to ignore.
Not only this, but there is a clear possibility that the greater narrative behind the raid is the measured destruction of the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society, to be replaced in their stead by a joint Assembly of First Nations/RCMP force.
Did Elsipogtog First Nation Chief Sock know that Thursday was the day?
Much has been made of the fact that Chief Sock and members of his council were arrested on the morning of October 17th. Sock and council were arrested in the second confrontation with RCMP, after the police had swept through the encampment, making numerous arrests, with guns drawn in the pre-dawn hours.
What brings Sock’s pre-awareness of the events of the 17th into question is a series of notes obtained by APTN journalist Jorge Barerra.
The notes, which Sock has since admitted to Barerra that he penned, were taken during a meeting between Chief Sock, Robert Levi and ‘Jumbo’ Sock, who are both councillors from Elsipogtog First Nation, Tobique First Nation member John Deveau and Listiguj First Nation member Wendell Metallic, and two provincially-appointed advisors and other members of the New Brunswick provincial government, which included premier and Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Alward, as well as Energy minister Craig Leonard.
The Sock notes suggest that the talks focused, at least for a period, on a timeline of when to take down the ongoing blockade.
Point ‘8’ on page one reads: “Blockade down, protest continues.”
Point ‘3’ on page two of Sock’s hand-written notes says: “Week – time limit Monday to next Wednesday.”
Point ‘4’ on the same page reads: “Equipment out Thursday?”
These notes were written on Monday, October 7th, so it is reasonably safe to conclude that the “next Wednesday” in question refers to Wednesday, October 16th. The Thursday in question is October 17th, the date of the vicious raid.
Granted, Sock does continue to publicly denounce SWN Resources Canada’s seismic testing in the area. In an attempt to patch up relations between his community and the RCMP, he even helped clean up the wreckage of six torched police cars. But based on his own notes, one must consider the possibility that he was aware that there was a plan in motion to dismantle the encampment and end the peaceful anti-shale gas encampment on Thursday, October 17th.
A blockade of millions of dollars of seismic testing equipment, without which SWN could not work, is one thing. A peaceful protest alongside the highway, where people can vent their indignation without actually stopping the Texas-based company from testing for shale gas deposits, is quite another.
One is effective, albeit potentially illegal in the eyes of the Crown. The other is a co-option of energy towards ineffective means, that is, if you actually want to stop the company from working.
The fly in Sock’s ear: John Deveau, heir to the director’s chair of the joint AFN/RCMP crisis response team in New Brunswick
Deveau, one of Sock’s provincially-appointed advisers, is an intriguing character and no stranger to the anti-shale gas protests in Elsipogtog. We have written in more detail about him here.
But to fully understand his role in the current anti-shale gas movement – and it is a big one – we need to back up for a moment to late June of 2013, when Elsipogtog’s anti-shale gas movement was being led by Elsipogtog ‘War Chief’ John Levi.
After 12 anti-shale gas arrests occurred on June 21st, 2013, along Highway 126 in Kent County, the community of Elsipogtog was understandably up in arms. A eight and a half month pregnant woman had been arrested, and an elder had been roughed up enough by RCMP that she was bleeding from the mouth by the time they zip-strapped her and tossed her in their wagon.
In response, on June 23rd, two new players were introduced to the community during a town hall-style meeting in Elsipogtog.
The first was the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society. The second was Tobique First Nation member Wendell Nicholas.
When first brought before the community of Elsipogtog, Nicholas was introduced as a ‘UN Independant [sic] Observer’. His rather vaguely defined mission at the time was related to making observations and preparing an upcoming report for a branch of the United Nations.
Claire Stewart Kannigan, working for rabble.ca, identified a mis-print on Nicholas’ shirt and started snooping. When Kannigan couldn’t find an established connection between Nicholas and the United Nations, and proceeded to out him on rabble, Nicholas promptly re-branded himself – with the assistance of a Chief Sock-led press conference – as the leader of a new ‘peacekeeping’ team known as the ‘Elsipogtog Peacekeepers’.
In the midst of a heated summer of protests, with residents tired of watching their community members being roughed up by the RCMP, the press conference introducing Nicholas was awash with hand shakes, ceremony and praise for Nicholas’ new team – even if his role wasn’t entirely understood beyond being something of a liaison between Elsipogtog band council and the RCMP.
As it turn out, Nicholas is something of an old hand in the game of liaising between First Nations communities and the Royal Colonial Mounted Police. In fact, he is the brainchild behind the Public Safety Cooperation Protocol (PSCP).
At the very least co-authored by Nicholas in 2004, the PSCP is amongst the modern day memorandums that facilitates sharing information between Indian Act chiefs and the RCMP on Indigenous unrest across Turtle Island. It is, in essence, an agreement between then AFN Chief Phil Fontaine and RCMP Commissioner Zaccardelli – on behalf of the Queen – to spy on and squash Indigenous grassroots unrest before it starts. The terms used in the PSCP are more flowery and bureaucratic than that, but the song remains the same.
Fontaine found himself outed and discredited when he collaborated with the RCMP to quash Indigenous unrest in 2007. His intelligence sharing with the police smacks of the Nicholas-penned PSCP agreement.
As for Nicholas, he hired members of the Elsipogtog community on as peacekeepers, and also hired people from outside of the community.
Suddenly summertime anti-shale gas protests alongside of the highways in Kent County were highly monitored affairs, with people wearing bright orange ‘Elsipogtog Peacekeepers’ t-shirts wandering around everywhere, some speaking to the police, some taking notes on clipboards.
One of those bright-shirted protest monitors was former US National Guardsman and police officer –and Nicholas’ cousin- John Deveau.
At some point, possibly due to failing health or prior commitments, Nicholas stopped being the public face of the Elsipogtog Peacekeepers. Handing over the daily duties to Deveau, Nicholas retired to a behind-the-scenes roll as Elsipogtog’s Public Safety Advisor, where he appears to remain.
Deveau, for his part, took over the directorship of the ‘peacekeeping’ team, and is actively drawing a salary of $60,000 a year as the director of the ‘Wabanaki Peacekeepers’, essentially version 2.0 of the Elsipogtog outfit, but with better equipment and full-time salaries.
Make no mistake. This is the pleasant name given to the Deveau-run joint AFN/RCMP crisis response team, the team that all summer long was liaising with SWN, the RCMP and Elsipogtog Band Council – all the while presenting itself as a neutral negotiating body to grassroots activists actually on the ground.
October 16th, 2013: John Deveau gets outed by the grassroots.
On Wednesday, October 16th, a crew of grassroots activists from Elsipogtog, as well as members of the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society, broke in on a John Deveau-chaired meeting. Present were numerous members of the RCMP, Elsipogtog ‘War Chief’ John Levi and several members of the Elsipogtog community.
Elsipogtog elder – and Levi’s aunt – Norma Augustine requested that Deveau, as well as bad-faith RCMP negotiator “Dickie” Bernard, be escorted out of Elsipogtog First Nation.
And by now the entire nation knows what took place on Thursday October 17th.
A tale of two Johns. Dividing camps, co-opting a movement
Elsipogtog ‘War Chief’ John Levi’s influence upon the autumn anti-shale gas blockade along Highway 134 was virtually non-existent before October 17th. Levi, a clean and sober sun-dancer, has made much of what he perceived as the Mi’kmaq Warriors less-than-puritan lifestyle, and has privately used this as his reasoning not to attend the blockade.
It is possible that some of these disparaging remarks were fuelled by the general misunderstanding over Levi’s role as Elsipogtog’s ‘War Chief’, and where exactly that placed him within the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society.
In effect, it placed him nowhere.
The Mi’kmaq Warrior Society operates as an independent body, with it’s own Chief and ranking system.
For his part, Levi was appointed ‘War Chief’ of Elsipogtog by Noel Augustine, Keptin of District 6 of the Migmaw Grand Council. The Grand Council is a modern day facsimile of a traditional Mi’kmaq government style that does not appear to wield much more than figurehead-style power. Noel Augustine, for example, has issued a variety of eviction notices to SWN Resources Canada, all of which have fallen upon the deaf ears of the Texas-based gas giant.
The more nefarious possibility is that Levi, under the influence of Deveau, could not infiltrate the encampment to any degree of information-gathering success, and thus reverted to a public smear campaign against the Warriors.
In any case, with the violent takedown of the Warrior Society out of the way, Levi is once again a common sight at the quickly rebuilding camp along Highway 134. It has been reported that Levi’s main aim at Highway 134, however, is in actively trying to encourage activists to move towards last summer’s encampment along Highway 116.
To boot, it has been reported that Levi is in negotiations with RCMP, offering the police that he can move the camp to the out-of-the-way Highway 116 location, in exchange for the police grounding their ever-present spy plane that continues to monitor the encampment along Highway 134.
Despite the destruction of the encampment during the raid of the 17th, the Highway 134 encampment by far remains the more tactical of camps.
SWN’s seismic testing lines are slated to be near Highway 11, one of the main arteries of transport in New Brunswick. Snap highway blockades, as occurred on October 19th as a show of defiance in the face of the RCMP’s raid, are also a quick and potential technique when the encampment remains on the 134. The 116 camp, arguably safer due to it’s proximity to Elsipogtog First Nation, is tucked far out of the way of any action save the falling of leaves.
Sadly, especially considering the very real legal costs now being incurred by the five Warriors who remain without a bail hearing, Levi’s camp division has also reached a financial level.
Splitting up donations from well-intention sources, including accepting money from the popular group The Indigo Girls, and then funnelling this money towards other side-projects, rather than towards the immediate legal costs of the Mi’kmaq Warriors, is only the tip of the iceberg.
At the Wilsons’ gas station in Elsipogtog, there are now two donation jars side by side. One for donations to the Highway 134 encampment, and one for the Highway 116 encampment. Social media has also begun offering a variety of sources for donations. Most appear to agree that the Warriors’ legal defence fund, which has already paid out a retainer to lawyers Lemieux and Menard, is the grassroots choice for donations.
APTN reported Monday that Chief Sock may well give the Elsipogtog band seal of approval, as it relates to anti-shale gas protests, to Levi. What exactly this means is entirely unclear.
With a summer’s worth of experience in leading blockade-free anti-shale gas protests on the side of the highway, and with close friend John Deveau there to guide him, Levi may well be the front-runner for the band’s endorsement.
The case of the missing van – and the missing Christian Peacemaker Team
At the rebuilding encampment along Highway 134, rumours continue to circulate of pre-October 17th tip-offs to the effect that Thursday would be a bad morning to be there. None of these rumours have been validated, yet, except for one.
On the evening of October 16th, Lorraine Clair, whose van originally had been blocking the entrance to the compound where SWN Resources Canada’s seismic testing equipment was being held, left the encampment. She left with her van.
It is unclear whether she had some kind of verbal altercation with members of the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society before she drove off.
In any case, before leaving the encampment, Clair contacted Chris Sabas Shirazi, the senior member of the Christian Peacemaker Team that had been monitoring the Indigenous anti-shale gas activists from Elsipogtog since the summer. Clair asked Shirazi to leave the encampment with her.
Shirazi then asked Elsipogtog elder Kenneth Francis, who was on the scene to give Clair’s dead van a battery boost if she should leave. Francis concurred that the CPT team should leave the encampment.
In her attempt to justify fleeing a scene that in hindsight was in desperate need of some kind of independent monitoring to counter the RCMP narrative that is seeing multiple charges being levied at all six incarcerated members of the Warrior Society, Shirazi noted that Clair – after John Levi became a non-factor at the Highway 134 encampment – was her “community partner from Elsipogtog.” Rather than seeking a new “community partner” at a live situation with the very real potential for confrontation to erupt, it appears that the CPT’s partnership chain ended with Clair.
So on the night of the 16th, at the request of Clair and Francis, the CPT left the as-yet peaceful encampment on Highway 134.
In her defence, Shirazi did attempt to return to the site in the morning. She also took some great video – amongst many other great videos – of the secondary confrontation with RCMP on the morning of the 17th.
Of the initial conflict, precious little footage exists that is not in RCMP hands.
Clair, for her part, appears to have located a computer on the evening of the 16th. She wrote a short message, all in caps, and posted it on the most visited of social media sites. The message mentioned that the “peaceful” part of the protest was over, and encouraged all supporters to meet her and others at the Highway 116 encampment for a noontime ceremony on the 17th. It cannot be determined what Clair was basing her assessment on; as a first-hand observer I saw no violence break out at the encampment on the night of the 16th to suggest that the peaceful part of the encampment had ended.
| October 24, 2013
Only a week ago, the Mi’kmaq and Elsipogtog First Nations were under siege by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) as the force acted upon an injunction to shut down an anti-fracking blockade.
Early that Thursday morning, hundreds of RCMP officers — some dressed in camouflage and assuming sniper positions in the woods surrounding the protest camp — moved in to clear out the highway and surrouding area near the town to Rexton, New Brunswick.
The Mi’kmaq Warriors Society’s encampment and highway blockades were in response to SWN Resources which was seeking to scan the traditional territories of the Indigenous in the region with seismic trucks to determine the potential for fracking shale gas from the ground.
Discontent with SWN Resource’s gas exploration has been going on in the area since June of this year, when community members began to take action against the potentiality for the fracking of shale gas.
Fracking is essentially a natural resource extraction technique that fractures an area of rock with a pressurized liquid. In this case, the fracking would release natural gas — SWN is currently in the process of using large trucks with seismic equipment to locate natural gas deposits.
“Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth. Fracking makes it possible to produce natural gas extraction in shale plays that were once unreachable with conventional technologies. Recent advancements in drilling technology have led to new man-made hydraulic fractures in shale plays that were once not available for exploration.”
On Monday October 21, 2013, New Brunswick premier, David Alward, publically stated that he hopes SWN Resources will be able to resume its operations in peace.
Monday was also the day activists learned that the injunction against them had been removed by the courts.
SWN Resources had gone to the courts and first issued the activists an injunction on Wednesday October 2, 2013, regarding the blockades and the seizure of SWN equipment. The RCMP had thus moved in and raided the area, removing the blockade and clearing out the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society’s camp.
But now, since there is no longer the warrior camp nor the blockade and since SWN has retrieved the equipment, there is no longer any part of the injunction to enforce.
In enforcing the injunction with the RCMP, over 40 people were arrested with some still behind bars. Six police vehicles were set on fire. Police were pelted with stones as scuffles broke out between the two opposing forces. A few Molotov cocktails were thrown at police lines in the early morning. Activists on the front lines faced pepper spray, rubber bullets and police dogs during the standoff. Once the SWN vehicles were removed and the blockade cleared, the RCMP left the scene.
Opponents of fracking contend that it takes an estimated 1-8 million gallons of water to complete each fracturing job and 40,000 gallons of chemicals. That is a lot of pollution.
So essentially, if you drink water, then fracking is an issue you should be concerned with.
Digging deeper into the relationship between First Nations communities and the government — which should be a nation-to-nation relationship — Indigenous rights activists contend that the territory in question was never ceded to Canada.
It also should be noted that, “ever since 2010, when New Brunswick handed out 1.4 million hectares of land — one-seventh of the province — to shale gas exploration, opposition had been mounting.”
Now that the police raid is over and the injunction lifted against his people, Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock said his community is ready to forgive the RCMP after what he calls “horrendous” treatment.
“One of the things that our community does well is heal,” said Chief Sock at a Monday morning press conference. ”The Mi’kmaq are always a forgiving people, and that goes for Elsipogtog as well.”
More on the good news front, Mi’kmaq warrior, Tyson Peters, will most likely not face the amputation of his leg due to an injury sustained after being shot by the RCMP with less-than-lethal rounds.
I don’t know how much the RCMP action against the Mi’kmaq and Elsipogtog Nations has cost and it is estimated that hundreds of police were deployed for last Thursday morning’s raid.
I do know that when Harper gave his latest throne speech, he promised a “renewed effort” to ending the frightening tragedy of violence and murder against Indigenous women in Canada.
What if all the money, officers and resources were redirected from police actions against First Nations communities towards bringing justice to missing and murdered Indigenous women?
krystalline kraus is an intrepid explorer and reporter from Toronto Canada. A veteran activist and journalist for rabble.ca, she needs no aviator goggles, gas mask or red cape but proceeds fearlessly into the democratic fray. This blog is about organizing and activism in Canada in a post-G20 world.