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
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
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.
Lancashire anti-fracking campaigners are understandably frustrated and angry at aggressive policing
Yesterday’s well-attended “silent” vigil outside of Kirkham Police Station was not quite as reticent or restrained as some may have expected, but with the benefit of hindsight, this is entirely understandable. Anti-fracking campaigners in Lancashire are frustrated and angry: indignant at the way their rights to protest have been trampled on, offended by the aggression and outright violence they have experienced at the hands of the police and exasperated at the failure of senior officers, the media and policymakers to listen to their concerns. No wonder most found it impossible to remain silent.
Superintendent Richard Robertshaw, who has tactical responsibility for the policing operation at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, made little attempt yesterday to try and defuse growing tensions between the police and protesters. He appeared to go out of his way to feign ignorance about the reasons for people’s resentment at aggressive policing and the issues that had led to the calling the vigil.
Instead, he chose to highlight and condemn “the aggressive behaviour of some of the protesters” gathered for the vigil, which he said “shows the challenges we face in dealing with people who are quite aggressive and and quite forceful in how they want to express their views” and was, he said, “very regrettable”. Read more
Anti-fracking vigil to call on Lancashire Police to “Stop Trampling on Our Freedom to Protest”
On Wednesday 17 May, Lancashire anti-fracking campaigners plan to hold a silent vigil at Kirkham Police Station in protest against the increasingly aggressive policing operation at the nearby Preston New Road fracking site and the way the right to protest has been repeatedly trampled on.
Campaigners will hand in an open letter, signed by over 300 local people, calling on the incoming Chief Constable, Andy Rhodes, to take part in an open public meeting to listen to concerns and answer questions about Lancashire Police’s strategy at the site.
The vigil is part of the “Swap Work for Work“ protest day organised by campaigners at the Preston New Road site.
They are supported by the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol), a national human rights organisation that has monitored the policing of anti-fracking protests since 2014 and has been increasingly alarmed by Lancashire Police’s failure to learn from previous opposition to fracking in other parts of the country. In particular, Netpol is concerned about often extremely aggressive behaviour by officers, the way protesters are pushed into the path of busy traffic with a lack of care for their safety and arbitrary decisions about arrests.
Kevin Blowe, the coordinator for Netpol, said:
“Concerns have been raised about the financial costs of policing the protests at Preston New Road but little thought appears to have been given to the legacy costs of this confrontational style of policing or the long-term impact it is having on relations between Lancashire Police and local people.”
“The timing of escalating aggressive behaviour by police officers, just as the fracking industry and its supporters have called for police to ‘crack down on protesters’, has further damaged confidence and trust.”
“In the interests of transparency and accountability, we urge the new Chief Constable to agree to the request to participate and answer questions in an open public meeting and call on the Police & Crime Commissioner, Clive Grunshaw, to also attend and take part.”
The vigil takes place between 1pm and 2pm at Kirkham Police Station, Freckleton Street, Kirkham PR4 2SN.
Tonight between 7 pm and 8 pm, Supt Richard Robertshaw, the “silver commander” for the policing operation at the fracking site at Preston New Road in Lancashire, is holding a Facebook Q&A
A silver commander is responsible for tactics: day to day operational decisions are made by the bronze commander. With that in mind, here are 10 questions that others might want to raise with the Superintendent this evening: Read more
Lancashire Police face growing industry pressure to ‘crack down’ on anti-fracking protests
Since we highlighted, at the beginning of March, the increasingly confrontational operation by Lancashire Police against anti-fracking campaigners at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, more protesters have complained of violence and officers pushing them towards busy traffic.
This escalation in aggressive police tactics has coincided with a campaign of pressure from supporters of the onshore oil and gas industry, conducted mainly through the pages of the Times newspaper, which has called for the police and courts to respond more robustly towards the anti-fracking movement. Read more
Video evidence of an assault on Tuesday by a Lancashire Police officer on a Fylde borough councillor, Roger Lloyd, points to an escalation of more ‘robust’ and aggressive tactics by police against anti-fracking protests at Cuadrilla’s shale gas exploration site near Blackpool.
This is the latest in a series of decisions made by local police that is likely to make it more difficult for protesters to know with any certainty what treatment they are likely to receive and whether police will genuinely protect their right to protest.