REXTON, N.B. - Tensions at a shale gas protest in Rexton, N.B., remained high on Saturday as a small group of protesters seized vehicles and equipment from two news agencies while others blocked a highway.
Jim Haskins, news director for Global News in New Brunswick, said journalist Laura Brown was at the site of an ongoing shale gas protest around noon when about five protesters confronted another media outlet and seized a vehicle on Route 134.
Haskins said Brown got into her vehicle and locked the door, but was threatened by the protesters.
"They knocked on the window and demanded that she get out of the vehicle and leave it," said Haskins. "At first she refused, but the situation she felt was unsafe and unstable so reluctantly she locked the vehicle, left and started walking away.
RCMP Const. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said police had taken statements from the media and was investigating.
Haskins, who is based in Halifax, said Brown was able to retrieve her vehicle and equipment just after 4 p.m. with the help of some First Nations people. He said no equipment was damaged.
CTV News reported that one of its news crews was also told by the protesters to leave behind their satellite truck and equipment while filming in a warehouse parking lot. Wendy Freeman, the president of CTV News, said in the email the network had no other immediate comment.
The network said the protesters approached the TV crew and asked them to leave before surrounding their vehicle.
The Assembly of First Nations' Chiefs in New Brunswick issued a statement Saturday condemning the actions of the small group of protesters. It urged all protesters to rally peacefully without intimidation. It also pressed them to stop blocking New Brunswick roads.
Protesters on Highway 11 in Rexton had set up a blockade earlier Saturday for a short period of time, but it was cleared later in the day, Rogers-Marsh said. She said Saturday evening that no roads in the area were being blocked.
The protest turned violent on Thursday, when six police vehicles including an unmarked van were burned and Molotov cocktails were tossed at police before they fired non-lethal beanbag type bullets and pepper spray to defuse the situation.
RCMP said they found improvised explosive devices that were modified to discharge shrapnel and used a fuse-ignition system. Officers also seized guns and knives after moving in to enforce a court-ordered injunction to remove protesters at the site of a compound in Rexton where SWN Resources stored exploration equipment.
Forty people were arrested for firearms offences, threats, intimidation, mischief and violating the injunction.
The protesters, some of whom were members of the Elsipogtog First Nation, were demonstrating for weeks against the development of a shale gas sector in the province.
Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock, who was among those arrested, met with New Brunswick Premier David Alward on Friday and said they would meet again to discuss ways of preventing what happened Thursday.
The RCMP blocked Route 134 on Sept. 29 after a protest there began spilling onto the road. Protesters subsequently cut down trees that were placed across another part of the road, blocking the entrance to the compound.
The protesters want SWN Resources to stop seismic testing and leave the province.
SWN Resources issued a statement Friday saying it is in the early stages of exploration in New Brunswick.
— By Aly Thomson in Halifax