A massive clash between RCMP and anti-fracking protesters has Canada’s justice minister calling for calm as the eastern New Brunswick incident that saw 40 people arrested and as many as five police vehicles torched prompts sympathy protests across the country.
More than three dozen protests and demonstrations have been planned for Friday, closing highways, blocking bridges and shutting down intersections in what could be the first concerted effort by Idle No More supporters since it sprang to prominence last spring.
“Our relatives in New Brunswick, members of the Elsipogtog First Nation and supporters of the Anti Shale, Anti-Fracking Actions are in crisis,” reads a call to action posted on the Idle No More website.
More than 40 people were arrested and face various charges following a clash between RCMP and protesters near a shale gas site in eastern New Brunswick on Thursday.
Demonstrators led by Mi'kmaq First Nations have been protesting for months the exploration of the site and the potential fracking of its resources.
New Brunswick Premier David Alward was expected to meet with native leaders on Friday and Justice Minister Peter MacKay called for an end to confrontations.
"There's obviously a need to respect the law and to avoid violence and return to discussions," he said, according to the Canadian Press. "That is what we're all encouraging and hoping for, but when violence erupts you can expect the police are there to keep the peace and to protect citizens."
The peaceful call to arms began spreading Thursday night and spilled into Friday. In Perth-Andover, N.B. some three dozen protesters blocked traffic along the Trans-Canada Highway through the evening.
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Another 50 protesters blocked traffic at the downtown Winnipeg intersection of Portage and Main, and about 40 others closed a highway in southern Ontario.
A bridge in Montreal was shut down, highways in Cape Breton were overrun and dozens of supporters gathered outside a Regina RCMP detachment, all in support of the New Brunswick standoff.
More than 40 other protests have been planned for Friday, according to a list compiled by the Idle No More movement.
Events were to be held from Victoria, B.C., and Saskatoon to Fort Albany, Ont., and Halifax, as well as Washington, New York City and Canadian Embassy in the Netherlands.
Only the original clash near Rexton, N.B., has so far reported violence. Now that a national movement is behind them, the hope is that calm can be kept. Protests are expected to continue through the weekend, and the RCMP is surely watching on.
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