Thursday, February 13, 2014

Fracking - We Are Winning

Barton Moss near Manchester has been the front line of the anti-fracking campaign in the UK. Police have shown a predictable level of impartiality.

They arrived one rainy day saying that a flare had been fired at a police helicopter two days earlier, cordoned off the tents and undertook searches that involved pulling out everyone's clothes and bedding and leaving it in the rain. Had there actually been any such flare fired the police would not have left it two days to come and investigate.

Older protesters are taken away from the site by the police using a favourite pretext for action with no legal basis, 'for your own safety'.

They have arrested people on a range of trumped up charges. Perhaps the most extraordinary is the incident of a non-protesting Lawful Observer, Dr Steven Peers, who was shooed away from filming an arrest and then arrested for drink-driving even though he was a sober pedestrian. Top tip; don't fit up a person whose role is to film things until you've checked their camera is switched off.

Prosecutors dropped the case as soon as it got to court and he is now suing the police for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment.

Most of the arrests have been whilst walking in front of the delivery trucks. Enclosed in a moving kettle of officers who tread on their heels and kick their ankles, people walk slowly down the access road ahead of the convoy as it arrives in the morning and leaves in the evening. Around fifty people, myself included, have been arrested. Like many of those nicked, I wasn't doing anything that the others weren't, but they tend to pick off the new arrivals or the veterans of other protest camps.

The access road isn't a normal road. It's a private road and a public footpath. The police dug up and nicked the public footpath sign in December, but this does nothing to the legal status of the place.

They were told repeatedly, every day, including just before arresting me, that it was a public footpath and Obstruction of The Highway doesn't apply and such arrests were unlawful.

Yesterday a judge at Manchester Magistrates Court confirmed this. So today people sat in front of the trucks and stopped them for eight hours until the convoy turned around and went away.

The police will now have to fall back on their slurs of protesters turning up for a ruck with the police and what a great job the police are doing of resisting such rabid provocation. That imaginative press release is  believed to be tipped for the Man Booker shortlist, though it will face stiff competition from my strikingly creative arresting officer's statement.

I have never seen a UK environmental campaign that looks so likely to win as the one against fracking. It has the vulnerable fledgling industry element that made the GM campaign successful. Then there is the robust mix of locals, direct activists and NGOs all doing what they do best and working in concert that made the roads campaigns so successful. It has the climate imperative underneath and the sense that drastic looking measures are the only ones that square up to the problem, elements that made the climate camps capture the imagination and move the grounds of debate.

Cuadrilla, the company that had the fracking operation in Balcombe last year, announced a fortnight ago that they were pulling out of all their Lancashire sites. A couple of days later climate denying fuckweasel Environment Secretary Owen Paterson admitted that the protesters are winning the argument, though he didn't say it was due to having better values, science and facts. He attributed it to us having 'exciting clothes'. Last week BP ruled out any fracking in the UK, plainly saying it was because of the protests it would attract. Each new poll shows public opposition to fracking increasing.

We are winning.

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