In a Fredericton newspaper publication over the weekend, SWN General Manager Tom Alexander claimed physical assaults had taken place on some of SWN's staff.
This is the first we've heard about physical assaults taking place at any time in the shale gas battle in New Brunswick. Since we've been focusing on this story solely for the past several months, we thought we would've heard about this. But Alexander's mention of it on the weekend is a new revelation to us.
The only thing we're aware of that approaches what Alexander is talking about was the intimidation by First Nations in Durham during a SWN open house in June. The Natives were in Alexander's face vehemently demanding he and his staff leave, but nothing physical took place.
We have questions in to some people on the different sides of the shale gas movement about this claim of SWN staff being physically assaulted. We will let you know the answers as soon as we do.
UPDATE: We just received comment from SWN General Manager Tom Alexander on this issue. Here is what he said verbatim:
"Over the course of the past several weeks there have been numerous events of physical and verbal assaults and there were threats of continued violence and ongoing vandalism. We take the safety of our crews, personnel and equipment very seriously and therefore we decided to suspend our 2011 seismic operations. I cannot discuss any of the events further as there are ongoing investigations but we will pursue every legal remedy possible as this type of activity is unacceptable."
UPDATE: RCMP Media Relations officer Cpl Yann Audoux stated the following to our inquiry about physical assaults on some SWN staff:
"It's not our policy to confirm or deny whether any investigations are taking place...but if any charges do come about, we will comment then."
UPDATE: Steve Benteau, Communications Officer, Deptartment of Natural Resources was emailed this morning for comment from the Minister's office on when Northrup found out about physical assaults. No response from Benteau. Benteau was also called by this publication at 12:57, but we could only leave a message on voicemail. We have so far received no response.
UPDATE: Judie Acquin-Miksovsky, local First Nations anti-shale gas protester, on Native awareness of physical assaults on some SWN employees:
"This is the first I've heard of this as well. As a member of Saint Mary's First Nation...we went into the blockade in a peaceful manner. We told them [SWN workers, RCMP] we DID NOT go there to do any damage to the vehicles or workers, and we didn't. There is absolutely no report of damage to workers or equipment during the blockade because there was none. Not one time was there any direct physical exchange of any kind to anyone on Route 625."
UPDATE: Jim Emberger of the Taymouth Community Association responds:
"It [physical assaults] was news to us too, as was most of what he [Tom Alexander] said. If each of his statements wasn't a lie, it was a gross misrepresentation."
UPDATE: Stephanie Merrill from The Conservation Council of New Brunswick responds:
"I have not heard anything either. Interesting."
UPDATE: Protester, speaker and former industry worker Maxime Daigle weighs in:
"I haven't heard anything...and if it did happen, I don't think it was when we were there [Stanley blockade] as the RCMP would've arrested someone right then and there; it would've been a tool to break off the blockade. It [claims of physical assaults] could be a PR stunt to show people that are not familiar with the subject...an overall picture of the protesters...that they are just a bunch of crazies. The real fight is going to begin, that is PR, and hopefully people realize this isn't something they can handle with ease and a little protesting."
UPDATE: Front line protester and member of an anti-shale gas movement action team, John Moir:
"All of our protests were peaceful. As far as our action teams (in my area) [Durham Bridge/Stanley/Taymouth] there were no reports of physical assaults. We would be the first to know as we are the 'action' team. And by 'action' I mean protection and front line. Not the people who vandalized, if they really did...I'm not sure what happened in Cumberland Bay. I did receive reports that it was very heated, but no reports of physical assaults."
UPDATE: Administrators of Ban Fracking NB website post statement on Facebook page:
"BanFrackingNB DOES NOT support resorting to vandalism, violence or theft. The media will try to paint us all as criminals now, and we will lose support from a lot of people."