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Protest march snarls downtown rush-hour traffic

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Protesters march down Portage Ave. to the RCMP headquarters Thursday evening.

JAMES TURNER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Protesters march down Portage Ave. to the RCMP headquarters Thursday evening. Photo Store

Demonstrators blocked rush-hour traffic after marching west down Portage Avenue Thursday evening and briefly shut down Winnipeg's iconic Portage and Main intersection in a show of solidarity for protestors in New Brunswick.

About 50 to 70 people took part in the hastily-organized protest march, which was at least partially associated with the Idle No More movement.

Michael Champagne said the march came together after pictures and videos began circulating through social media Thursday showing a violent clash between RCMP and demonstrators in Rexton, N.B.

New Brunswick RCMP say dozens of people were arrested after Molotov cocktails were thrown at officers and police vehicles torched when they began enforcing an injunction to end an ongoing demonstration against shale gas exploration in the eastern part of that province.

Mounties said at least 40 people were arrested for firearms offences, threats, intimidation, mischief and violating the court-ordered injunction.

There were reports of rubber bullets and pepper spray being fired by police, although RCMP would not confirm this or speak to tactics.

"The pictures and videos shared with us… are very alarming," said Champagne. "It showed a snapshot of one moment of how the RCMP continue to treat native people since the beginning of Canada," he said.

A Canadian flag was burned at Portage and Main as part of the Winnipeg demonstration. Champagne said he wasn't associated with that act, which he described as "a statement."

The march ended around 7 p.m. at the RCMP D Division headquarters at Dominion Street and Portage. Demonstrators sang traditional aboriginal songs and drummed. Several people spoke to the gathered crowd as police kept an eye on the event from a distance.

"We are all the change we have been looking to see," Champagne told those gathered.

With files from the Canadian Press

History

Updated on Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 8:42 PM CDT: Adds photo.

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