By Julie Gordon
Oct 17 (Reuters) - Police in the eastern Canadian provinceof New Brunswick arrested about 40 people on Thursday afterefforts to dismantle a highway barricade turned violent andprotesters against shale gas exploration set several policevehicles on fire.
The incident came in response to a weeks-long protest byactivists and local aboriginals, who blocked a road near thetown of Rexton to try to slow work by SWN Resources Canada, asubsidiary of Southwestern Energy Co, which is exploringshale gas properties in the area.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) moved in early onThursday to break up the blockade. They said officers wereattacked with Molotov cocktails and at least one shot was fired,but not by them.
Susan Levi-Peters, the former chief of the nearby Elsipogtogaboriginal reserve, said the police had moved in aggressively onunarmed protesters.
"The RCMP is coming in here with their tear gas - they evenhad dogs on us," she said. "They were acting like we're standingthere with weapons, while we are standing there, as women, withdrums and eagle feathers. This is crazy. This is not Canada."
Levi-Peters said six police vehicles were burning in thestreet and the Elsipogtog chief and some of the reserve'scouncil members had been arrested.
A police spokeswoman was not immediately available toconfirm the arrests, but pictures of Elsipogtog chief Aaron Sockand two others being escorted away by police were posted onTwitter.
The RCMP said dozens of people were arrested on variouscharges, including weapons offences, mischief and refusing toabide by the court injunction.
"The RCMP has worked diligently with all parties involved inhopes for a peaceful resolution," said Constable JullieRogers-Marsh. "Those efforts have not been successful. Tensionswere rising and serious criminal acts are being committed."
Members of the Elsipogtog reserve have long opposed SWN'sefforts to explore for gas in the region. They want a moratoriumon shale gas exploration and say the company did not consultthem before starting work.
Their efforts have been buoyed by the "Idle no More"movement, a grassroots effort to bring more attention to thepoor living conditions on native reserves and to help aboriginalcommunities gain more control over natural resource projects.
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