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 in 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’.
Over the coming months, more and more Lancashire anti-fracking campaigners arrested at Preston New Road face trials at Magistrates Courts around the north west of England.
Even for experienced activists, appearing in court is nerve-wracking and many defendants from Lancashire are facing a hearing for the first time. All would welcome as much solidarity as possible, with supporters in the public gallery to witness proceedings.
However, local campaign groups have said they recognise the risk that drawing a significant number of Protectors away from the frontline on Preston New Road to attend court may make it easier for Cuadrilla to beat the blockade without sufficient opposition on site.
They need others to step forward and offer court solidarity – can you help? Read more
Netpol has today launched a new film on the many allegations of police violence made by campaigners who are blockading shale gas company Cuadrilla’s drilling site at Preston New Road in Lancashire.
In the first in a forthcoming series of short films made with Gathering Place Films on the policing of anti-fracking protests, Netpol shares the voices of campaigners on what is currently the front-line of resistance to fracking in the UK. Read more
One of the UK’s smallest police forces, Durham Police, is reportedly gathering video captured by officers’ body worn cameras to create a ‘troublemakers’ database – contravening national guidance that officers should not use the technology as an ‘intelligence-gathering tool’.
Body Worn Video cameras, or ‘bodycams’ as they are more usually known, are now a global phenomenon. Most UK police forces use them routinely, as do forces in the US, Australia and Europe. Nor is it just the police that is using this technology: bodycams are routinely worn by bailiffs, security guards, even traffic wardens and council workers.
This is arguably one of the biggest single expansions of surveillance capacity since the introduction of CCTV, and one that is highly profitable for bodycam manufacturers such as Axon (formerly Taser International). Read more
As Reclaim the Power’s month of ‘Rolling Resistance‘ solidarity actions in support of Lancashire anti-fracking groups entered its second week on 10 July, Netpol was able to witness first-hand the policing of protests at Preston New Road and to talk to local campaigners about their experiences.
The week began with the arrival of public order officers from Cumbria, Merseyside and North Wales, as Lancashire Police used ‘mutual aid‘ arrangements for the first time to bolster its presence at the Cuadrilla fracking site. Following the previous week’s aggression by police and security, campaigners were understandably nervous. Read more
The start of Reclaim the Power’s month of Rolling Resistance on Saturday has seen the blockade of shale gas company Cuardilla’s Preston New Road site in Lancashire intensify, with every warning about the consequences of a highly partisan and oppressive policing operation ignored by Lancashire Police.
Just a few days in, there is already video evidence of the site’s security staff violently attacking protesters locked onto each other outside the main entrance and of the site manager restraining and punching one campaigner. The police, who have a legal duty not only to facilitate but to protect the right to freedom of assembly, failed on both occasions to intervene, even though a number of people were injured. Only after considerable publicity (including pressure on social media from Netpol) has an investigation finally begun.
— Netpol (@policemonitor) July 4, 2017
— Jenny Jones (@GreenJennyJones) July 4, 2017
In the final stages of this month’s general election, Prime Minister Theresa May attempted to bolster her increasingly fragile position with another attack on human rights laws, a move that was rightly condemned by national and international human rights groups.
With coinsiderably less publicity, however, a United Nations report on human rights in the UK, published in May, provided a reminder that legislation, on its own, does not protect our fundamental rights. People acting together to protect these rights are just as important. Read more
Merseyside Police is accused of ignoring the standard practice, adopted by most UK police forces, of acknowledging that independent legal observers are not the same as protesters – and of justifying this on the basis of the way those monitoring a protest in Liverpool were dressed.
During a recent English Defence League (EDL) march and counter demonstrations against it on Saturday 3 June, legal observers who are part of Green and Black Cross‘ national network of volunteers who monitor the policing of protests were out on the streets near the city’s Lime Street station. As always, they were clearly identified by their familiar fluorescent orange bibs. According to media reports, there were over 200 officers and 25 riot vans deployed on the day.
As counter-demonstrators gathered, legal observers were told a Section 14 notice, imposing conditions on public assembly and giving police the power to order protesters to confine their protest to a certain place, had been issued. They were then instructed to join protesters in a designated protest area for members of Unite Against Fascism, one of the groups opposing the EDL march. Read more
Within 24 hours of the start of drilling on 31 May by UK Oil and Gas Investments (UKOG) at its Broadford Bridge well in West Sussex, Operation Edmond – the response by Sussex Police to protests at the site – is already raising the same concerns we highlighted last year about unpredictable policing and an unwillingness by officers to accommodate minor disruption to unconventional energy exploration without making arrests.