(RCMP officers display cache of weapons seized during Thursday’s raid. APTN/Photo)
APTN National News
FREDERICTON, N.B.-A senior RCMP officer warned Friday reinforcements reportedly travelling to New Brunswick to bolster Mi’kmaq ranks could lead to a repeat of the heavily-armed raid of a warrior society-anchored anti-fracking encampment by RCMP tactical units the day before.
Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown issued the warning during a press conference displaying rifles, ammunition and knives seized during Thursday’s raid. Brown said RCMP officers also seized improvised explosive devices.
“I am very concerned that others may be coming in support of or otherwise and my concern on that is how this is going to unfold today or tomorrow,” said Brown.
While Thursday’s raid appears to have temporarily neutralized some key players within the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society, there are widespread reports reinforcements are travelling to New Brunswick from other First Nation communities to join in the cause.
Images of camouflaged RCMP officers in sniper positions and burning cruisers inflamed emotions as they flashed across social media platforms Thursday.
Brown called for calm.
“I am urging everybody to allow things to calm down and everyone who wants to demonstrate to do so in a peaceful and law abiding manner,” he said.
Brown said shots were fired from within the encampment and Molotov cocktails were thrown at police during the raid. He said the RCMP seized three bolt-action, single shot hunting rifles, one fashioned with a bayonet, at the site which sits about 15 kilometres northeast of Elsipogtog First Nation and 80 kilometres north of Moncton.
RCMP officers, some wearing camouflage and wielding assault weapons, cleared the encampment Thursday to free SWN Resources Canada’s exploration vehicles which had been blocked by anti-fracking activists backed by the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society.
The guns were displayed on a table during a press conference at the RCMP’s New Brunswick headquarters in Fredericton. The guns appeared alongside piles of ammunition, bear spray and knives.
Brown said the guns, which were all legal, were hidden within the encampment which proved there were nefarious intentions behind their possession.
“When you see firearms of that nature, hidden underneath a tent, with ammo and fully accessible at a second’s notice, that is not the context one would find normal firearms in this situation,” he said.
Chief Superintendant Dwayne Gallant said seized improvised explosive devices included large commercial-grade fireworks packed with shrapnel made from shotgun pellets and small crushed rocks.
Brown said the encampment’s weaponry posed a serious public security threat.
“What triggered it was that situation was no longer secure, this situation was no longer a peaceful protest and that lives could be in danger,” said Brown.
A total of 40 people were arrested during a volatile day of protest that followed the raid. The RCMP said nine people had been charged with pointing a firearm, mischief, assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest, obstructing justice and failing to abide by a court injunction.
The RCMP said 31 people had been released on undertakings and promises to appear.
There was also an attempt to burn the Elsipogtog RCMP police station at 2:30 a.m. Friday morning. The building is owned by the First Nation and the reserve’s fire department put out the flames before it caused any major damage, said the RCMP.
The band council for Elsipogtog First Nation, which has been at the heart of the anti-fracking opposition, distanced itself from the seized weapons. Chief Arren Sock and some band councillors also met with Brown on Thursday evening.
“Chief and Council of the Elsipogtog First Nation wish to state clearly that guns and bombs, if any, have no place in our peaceful efforts. The destruction of police vehicles was unfortunate and unnecessary,” said the statement. “A peaceful path forward still exists, but the situation is extremely volatile.”
Sock was meeting with New Brunswick Premier David Alward late into the evening Friday.