A quiet Lancashire village is once again at the centre of a storm over police “brutality”. But this time, a private security company is also implicated. And campaigning locals have said that the corporation involved in this “disproportionate violence” has had what “little credibility” it had left “demolished”.
No fracking way
Preston New Road, near the village of Little Plumpton in Lancashire, is at the centre of a row over fracking. Cuadrilla, a shale gas extraction company, has permission to frack the site. But local people are against the company’s plans. And they have stepped up their protests since January.
The government gave the go-ahead for Cuadrilla to frack there (the first site of its kind in the UK) last year. Cuadrilla officially began work on 5 January. And ever since, protesters have been at the site.
The government’s decision to let Cuadrilla frack has been controversial. Lancashire County Council originally refused Cuadrilla’s application to frack the site. But Communities Secretary Sajid Javid stepped in last October and gave the company permission.
Frack you, Javid
Campaigners from Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG) called Javid’s decision at the time “wholly undemocratic”, saying that “the ramifications of overturning local planning decisions are huge”:
Ordinary people are appalled that we are governed by people who say one thing and do another. Dismantling the democratic process to facilitate a dirty fossil fuel industry… is another example of… governmental hypocrisy.
PNRAG is now taking the government to court over its decision. The appeal case will be heard in London on 30 and 31 August. Meanwhile, violence has broken out repeatedly at the protest site. And the latest round has shocked campaigners and locals alike.
The ‘Reclaim the Power’ campaign group, which is supporting community action at Preston New Road, reported that protesters and locals had suffered an “unprecedented use of force” at the hands of private security staff working for Cuadrilla. It says that:
A demonstrator was restrained in a headlock and punched by Cuadrilla’s Site Manager; and then pinned to the ground by security guards:
Another had their leg caught and trapped in a car door by the same Site Manager.
Multiple others were pushed into the road and tackled to the floor by a team of more than 15 private security staff.
The activity took place on the public highway. Not on Cuadrilla’s private land.
Last night [Monday 3 July] as part of an attempt by Police to clear overnight protesters from the Preston New Road site, another man’s arm was broken as Police removed him from a tower structure.
Nothing new in Lancashire
But as The Canary previously reported, accusations of violence at the site against campaigners and locals is nothing new. In March, Councillor Miranda Cox from Kirkham said in a statement to The Canary:
We have witnessed and experienced an increase in police numbers and a hardening of tactics. At times it has felt that we are being policed as if we are in a riot situation. Clearly there is a balance between public safety and public order and the right to protest. At present the balance appears to tilt in favour of industry rather than the protesters. Arrests appear to be used routinely.
The police allegedly injured both Cox and another councillor, Roger Lloyd. On Wednesday 1 March, police allegedly pushed Cox, causing her to fall. She allegedly suffered leg pain. She also said the police kettled them, after which:
They shoved us and that knocked us. My leg went from under me. There was a loud crack and I went down. I got up and there was a lady lying unconscious at my feet.
On Monday 27 February, police allegedly pushed Lloyd to the ground:
Both councillors have also accused the police of trying to “provoke” violence.
You fracking what?
The Canary asked Lancashire Police for a statement. But none had been received at the time of publication.
Claire Stephenson from Frack Free Lancashire told The Canary:
We have been utterly horrified at the mindless violence that has been perpetrated by Cuadrilla security staff and the needless and totally disproportionate force used by the police against peaceful anti-fracking campaigners. Many of us are retired residents, who are frail and are unaccustomed to such brutality. We have an absolute right to protest without incurring injuries, harassment or abuse.
What we are witnessing and experiencing in Lancashire is akin to the past brutality seen at anti-fracking protests. Lessons clearly have not been learned. We are urgently calling upon political parties to get involved and speak out for our community’s safety and well being.
A fracking disgrace
What is happening in this small Lancashire village is a microcosm of the Tories’ attitude towards the public across the country. It doesn’t seem enough that they openly encourage fracking. They now feel they can ride roughshod over the democratic will of local councils and local people. And big businesses like Cuadrilla simply bulldoze their way through, assisted by the police and private security.
Frackers will not easily move the people of Lancashire, though. So this saga looks set to continue for weeks, if not months, to come.
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