GRAND MANAN, New Brunswick-There was a heavy police presence on New Brunswick’s Grand Manan Island on Wednesday as residents gathered to discuss a recent bout of vigilante violence.

At least two dozen RCMP cruisers, a police helicopter and small boat were dispatched to the island off the province’s southwest coast near Maine amid reports that tensions remain high more than a week after the home of a suspected drug dealer was torched, shots were fired and two men were allegedly beaten by local residents.

“We had additional resources brought on the island, and we’re looking at maintaining higher presence on Grand Manan until such time as we feel that they’re no longer required,” said RCMP Cpl. Kevin Jackson.

A sign posted near the island’s ferry terminal made it clear some residents feel the violence was justified. It simply says: Free Our Heroes.

The Mounties planned to use the local high school to provide an update on their investigation into the four-hour melee July 22 that involved about 40 people – some armed with guns, knives and baseball bats.

“The primary purpose of that is to dispel any rumors or speculation in the community and provide everybody in the community an opportunity to ask police questions,” said Jackson.

The brawl took place in Castalia, a tiny rural community on the east side of the island.

The violent outburst was out of character for the Bay of Fundy island, which is known as a popular but tranquil tourist spot that is home to about 2,000 permanent residents. The island is about five miles from U.S. waters off far eastern Maine.

Meanwhile, some residents said they were angry with the RCMP for descending on the town to keep an eye on local residents while doing little to respond to repeated requests to stem the growing drug problem on the island.

“These Mounties need to explain where they’ve been,” said one man. “They’re protecting the drug dealers.”

The residents say the island has a steady supply of crack cocaine, Ecstasy and the prescription painkillers Dilaudid and Oxycontin.

Some residents, who asked not to be named, said the number of car and home break-ins has risen steadily as illicit drugs have become more pervasive.

Two men who were charged following the violent clash are being held in an undisclosed New Brunswick jail for their own protection.

Videotaped messages from the two were expected to be played at the meeting.

Carter Wayne Foster, 24, and Michael Dean Small, 26, both of Grand Manan, were expected to use their statements to appeal for calm.

Small was charged with arson and with carrying a rifle in a way dangerous to the public peace. Foster was charged with one count of possession of a weapon dangerous to the public peace dating to July 22 and one of unlawful storage of firearms dating to July 30.

Small and Foster are being held in custody until Aug. 15 when bail hearings are scheduled for both men.

Police are still looking for the man whose house was burned after he was charged last week with possession of a dangerous weapon.

AP-ES-08-02-06 2001EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.