Crouching in the grass, armed with snipers and dressed in military fatigues, they aim their assault rifles at elders, women, and children. “Don’t point it at my mom,” says one woman. While the sniper refrains, his colleagues continue tasering people. Some have police dogs set on them, while others – including children – are shot at by rubber bullets.
Among the roughly 200 armed RCMP officers, some are from the riot squad, carrying shields, batons, and employing both tear gas and pepper spray against the people. A reporter from the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Ossie Michelin, overhears one officer say: “Crown land belongs to government, not to fucking natives.” Forming a large barricade on the highway, the RCMP physically blocked protesters, also blocking cell phone signals, live video feeds, and media access to the site. In yesterday’s final account, at least 40 of the Mi’kmaw people, including Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock, were arrested at the site near Rexton, New Brunswick.
For over two weeks now, a coalition of people led by local Mi’kmaq activists have blockaded the road leading to an equipment compound leased to a Texas-based energy company. The company, Southwestern Energy, has recently conducted seismic testing. Depending on the results, they will use the land to engage in the damaging process of hydraulic-fracturing, or fracking, in order to extract the region’s shale gas resources. Among other things, fracking in the area will contaminate the drinking water, a mainstay of the fracking process globally.
Since the summer, however, the Mi’kmaq have stood in the way of extraction. And, although Southwestern Energy has obtained an RCMP-backed injunction to have their profit interests protected by the state, the story has yet to end. Over the next few days, forty-five solidarity demonstrations will take place, and the Six Nations in Ontario have shut down a highway in solidarity with the Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq.
Today, in Vancouver, at the south side of the Vancouver Art Gallery at 3:30pm, we will meet to stand and march in solidarity with the Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq. We do so because we recognize the ownership of Indigenous peoples to their lands – even when the Canadian state does not. We do so because we know what fracking – in a world quickly overshooting its carbon budget, or the amount of carbon we can still safely emit – would mean to the lives of future generations and our own. We do so because this display of brutality against protesters must be opposed. And we do so because, when the state unequivocally works on behalf of corporations against our common goals, the Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq are not only protesters but protectors.
See facebook for more information about today’s solidarity rally in Vancouver.