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Canadian authorities on Thursday sent armed paramilitaries wearing camouflage and carrying high-powered rifles to clear out a group of anti-fracking protesters who've blockaded a gas exploration site since Sept. 30, area media reported.
"I can confirm police are enforcing a court injunction and in order to ensure public safety, we have closed the road until it is resolved," a spokesperson for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) told the CBC. "The road will remain closed until the situation has been resolved and certainly public safety is our No. 1 priority at this point."
The blockade was being manned by members of the indigenous Elsipogtog Mi'kmaq First Nation, the Acadians and the Anglophones, who banded together with local activists to prevent a gas exploration project in New Brunswick from going forward. The company behind the project is SWN Resources Canada, a subsidiary of Houston-based SWN Energy.
Video shared on Twitter by activists at the scene (embedded below) shows men in camouflage uniforms aiming sniper rifles and assault weapons at the protesters as activists repeatedly inform them that they are not armed. A reporter with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (ATPN) also captured images of several police vehicles on fire after the confrontation began around 1 p.m. eastern.
Canadian police sprayed dozens of protesters with pepper spray during the melee, which allegedly began after the chief of the Mi'kmaq tribe was "manhandled," according to Canada.com reporter Lauren Strapagiel. There were also reports of tear gas being deployed, and a nameless officer in camo was quoted saying: "Crown land belongs to the government not to the fucking natives."
The RCMP later added that at least 40 people were arrested. "The RCMP has worked diligently with all parties involved in hopes for a peaceful resolution," it said in a media advisory. "Those efforts have not been successful."
This video was published to YouTube on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013.
N.B. protest turns violent (via CBC Television, October 13, 2013).