PORTSMOUTH — As many as a dozen activists protesting shale gas exploration in Canada were arrested this morning after refusing to leave the local headquarters of Irving Oil Corp.
Police responded to Irving's office at 190 Commerce Way around 11 a.m. after the company called to report the activists were on the property, and some had made their way inside the building and refused to leave.
Police Lt. Mark Newport said he didn't know the exact number of people arrested for trespassing, but be believed it was between 12 and 15.
Four of the activists inside the building were attached together by a "metal mechanism," Newport said.
"They went into the building and refused to leave until corporate was willing to speak to them," Newport said.
No one was injured in the protest, which caught police by surprise.
"There was no heads-up to us," said Newport, who described the protest as "passive resistance."
The protesters were from a group known as the Trans and/or Women's Action Camp (TWAC).
The group issued a statement on its blog stating that dozens of activists were occupying Irving's Portsmouth office to present demands to company officials as part of an anti-fracking movement in New Brunswick, Canada.
Fracking is a method used for extracting natural gas.
"Ten activists are 'locked down' using a combination of lock boxes and u-lock kryptonite bike locks. These activists will occupy the office until demands are met or they are forcibly removed," the group said in its statement.
The group said the protest was in solidarity with the Mi'kmaq First Nation's current road blockade in Elsipogtog, a protest in New Brunswick against fracking exploration by SWN Resources Canada.
The group said the exploration is "currently taking place on their traditional lands without their consent."
In its statement, the group claims Irving "supports fracking exploration on First Nations' land by allowing SWN Resources to store their equipment in an Irving-owned compound, and reports state that natural gas that comes off of Elsipogtog land would go to the Irving refinery in New Brunswick."
An Irving spokesman could not be reached for comment.