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'Battle Won, War Continues': Court Affirms First Nation's Right to Protest Fracking
Ruling follows violent police crackdown on New Brunswick protest; Elsipogtog vow to continue mobilizations
Members of the Elsipogtog First Nation are declaring a people's victory after a Canadian judge on Monday overruled an energy company's push for a permanent injunction on protests against fracking exploration in New Brunswick.
Despite last week's violent police crackdown on their fracking blockade, the group is celebrating the ruling and vowing to continue their mobilization against shale oil exploration in their territories.
"There is a little progress. We won the battle yesterday when the court overturned the injunction against us," said John Levi, Warrior Chief of Elsipogtog, in an interview with Common Dreams. "But the war is not over. We are going to continue, be out there, wait for them, and look for them. We don't want fracking in our territories."
Justice George Rideout issued the ruling Monday, according to The First Perspective, as members of the Elsipogtog and other fracking opponents sang and drummed in the Court of Queen’s Bench courtroom and nearby hallway.
Part of a nation-wide movement against fracking, Elsipogtog First Nation members and local residents had blockaded a road near the town of Rexton in rural New Brunswick since September 30, putting their bodies in the way of the company's fracking exploration efforts that are racing forward on their lands without their consent. After pressure from SWN Resources Canada, a subsidiary of the Houston-based Southwestern Energy Co, the government imposed a temporary injunction October 3 and ordered the protesters to disband.
Following the order, the protest was stormed last week in a paramilitary-style assault by over 100 Royal Canadian Mounted Police who arrived with rifles, dogs, and some dressed in camouflage uniforms. The media widely reported that, in the aftermath of the attacks, six police vehicles were burned, including one that was unmarked. The police arrested 40 protesters on the grounds they had violated the temporary injunction.
"We were shot at with rubber bullets. Our elders were sprayed with pepper spray. People were dragged around on the pavement on the dirt. There was a lot of violation of human rights," Levi told Common Dreams. "We are healing right now. There are a lot of people who need help."
The police crackdown sparked broad outrage and nation-wide protests and solidarity actions among indigenous and non-native communities. They also forced First Nation struggles against fracking into the international media spotlight.
The court's ruling against the injunction is a blow against SWN, which has aggressively moved to quell protests against its controversial shale oil exploration.
"I think that the solidarity across Canada played a big part in the injunction being overturned," Levi told Common Dreams. "We will keep protesting to discourage the SWN from coming in here and attempting to frack our lands and our territories. There was never any consultation with our people."