Anti-fracking protesters outside the Manchester Oil and Gas Summit in July 2016. PHOTO: Netpol

Protesters outside the Oil and Gas Summit in Manchester in July 2016. PHOTO: Netpol

Netpol receives new two-year funding from October 2016

We are delighted to announce that Netpol has secured additional funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd to address the pressing need to change the way the police continue to respond to anti-fracking protests.

From October 2016, our ‘Protecting the Anti-Fracking Protectors’ campaign will seek:

  • a political consensus locally and nationally that policing operations at future protests are genuinely less aggressive┬áin their size and tactics and more transparent in their dealings with industry and the media.
  • Lobby Police & Crime Commissioners to publish their expectations of policing strategies towards anti-fracking protests and to effectively scrutinise the human rights compliance of policing operations in their areas.
  • an end to intensive surveillance and intelligence-gathering against anti-fracking protesters.
  • greater awareness among first time anti-fracking campaigners about their fundamental legal rights,

Alongside our lobbying work, we intend to develop new tools to illustrate how campaigners can most effectively assert their rights to assembly and freedom of expression. We are also setting up a ‘whistle-blowing’ website offering individual campaigners who feel they are unfairly targeted the reassurance they can share information with us securely (including, for example, on inappropriate referrals to the government’s ‘Prevent’ anti-radicalisation programme or evidence of the unfair labelling of activists as ‘extremists’).

Since we began working with the anti-fracking movement in 2014, Netpol has uncovered significant evidence of close ties between police forces and the onshore oil and gas industry and shown how public order training for senior police officers is focused specifically on anti-fracking protest, which undermine attempts by police to portray themselves as ‘neutral’.

Our monitoring has also documented policing strategies that have included large-scale operations, inappropriate police powers and arrests, the disproportionate use of physical force and a reluctance to negotiate in good faith with protesters, which have raised questions about how police are delivering their legal duty to facilitate protest.

In addition, Netpol has also found widespread use of sophisticated intelligence-gathering methods targeted against demonstrators; the singling-out of ‘organisers’ for greater attention; and the labelling of protesters as ‘extremists’. We were the first to reveal inappropriate data-sharing and referrals about opponents of fracking to the government’s counter-terrorism ‘Prevent’ programme.

Continued funding will enable Netpol not only to extend the support we offer to opponents of fracking, but also apply greater pressure on police forces to properly exercise their positive duty to protect the right to freely assemble.