I’ve just come back from a few hours in Lancashire, at the Preston New Road protest against fracking by Cuadrilla. The people who are protesting are a mix of locals, initially reluctantly drawn into the fracas but now pivotal organisers, and experienced campaigners who can supply the outside contacts and good advice.
The group is organised, efficient, and welcoming. I was there to support their hard work, but also to collect firsthand accounts of the often disproportionate and sometimes illegal policing. They had organised videos for me to see, and people to talk to about their experiences. For example, a driver with disabilities who was told if he beeped one more time on his journey to work while going past the protest he would be dragged out of his car and arrested. That didn’t stop him obviously. Or a man who was knocked cold by a Merseyside Sergeant for no apparent reason other than he was running to help a woman. Or the local businessman who was arrested while on the verge, for ‘walking with intent’.
Preston New Road is an interesting case because all tiers of locally elected representatives, parish, borough and county, voted against allowing the fracking application. But the Government, in flagrant disregard of its own manifesto promise to allow local decision-making, overruled all the councils and gave the go ahead.
The visit gave me enough information to ask questions of the Home Office, and of Lancashire Police. I could see that the police were tired and stressed, so not only is policing the protest time consuming and very expensive, it’s also bad for the officers themselves.
Fracking is dirty, dangerous, expensive and unnecessary. Local Lancashire people know that and just don’t want it there. Surely the Government and the Police should be listening to them, not to a company out to make money, regardless of the consequences?