From the anti-fracking frontline in Lancashire

The government has recently proposed changes in planning laws that will make fracking in the UK easier. This is madness, fracking in this country was always a non-starter – it’s been banned in France, Germany and Scotland for good reasons. I’m supporting protests from a distance these days but here is a moving piece, re-posted from one of the long-term frontline protectors:-

“Recently after a nun, vicar and monk spoke during faith week… I asked some police officers, just who were the ‘good guys’? And they said themselves. So I asked who are the ‘bad guys’ they were here policing… was it the nun, the vicar or the monk? They laughed but it isn’t really funny is it… there must be ‘bad guys’ if policing levels are what they are and the only alternative on this road is Cuadrilla. The obvious fails to be seen by those who don’t look.

…………………………..

Today is day 501 since we arrived at Preston New Road to face Cuadrilla and the huge task of stopping them. Since then they have built a pad, changed their traffic management plan countless times, breached till it became so troublesome and obvious that they had to make a new rule that says: “If the police are accompanying the vehicle… it doesn’t count as a breach.”… they’ve proceeded but NOT as planned; if it had been as planned, they’d have done the flow test (fracked) by now. It is estimated they are 9 months and a year behind schedule.

Lancashire Police have estimated that policing the protests has cost £7 million

The ONLY thing stopping them being on-schedule is us. No part of our government or council has put any barriers in place or asked for pause on safety considerations when Cuadrilla made changes… they just get a well-greased ride from our ‘authorities’. The knitters, the ditherers, the delayers, the prayers, the surfers, the lock-ons, the dancers, the tea-drinkers… we’re the cause; every single moment of delay has accumulated into a huge headache for Cuadrilla, with suppliers having to work round us and some, getting wised-up or fed-up enough to pull out.

Success is impossible to measure, though the share price has not recovered since we caused the drop in it and remains below .40 cents (most investors bought in at a much higher than this price).

Failure though is felt every moment of every day that any of us stand before the beast of a rig. We feel small, inconsequential and aghast that we even have to do the work of regulators and authorities in order to keep our community and its children from harm.

Our right to peaceful protest is dependent on who is in charge at any given moment and the definition of acceptable peaceful protest has diminished to banner-waving across the road from the site entrance. We continue to sit in the entrance to the site… and are removed with the regularity of the vehicle arrivals and departures. Sometimes we are moved with care… other times we are quite literally thrown. We attempt too to get in front of the vehicles to slow them (as has been done on every other frack site) but here on the busy A583 PNR… the vehicles put pedal to the floor and don’t stop for anything. The police stand by and wrap-round the rapid vehicles, putting their own lives at risk for the flatbeds with pipes, the waste trucks, the water trucks, the skip hire and the toilet cleaning vehicle – each gets the sort of policing you’d imagine for an urgently required kidney en-route to a dying patient.

But still we come… still we gather and still we stand in protest anywhere we choose until we are rudely removed. It’s a weird thing… as a small child we are picked up and popped down all the time but as a grown-up, the act of being touched without permission and moved against your choosing – is such an affront to go through. We sit and get picked up and placed elsewhere so many times but after each… return to knit, sit, sip tea and carry on our essential defiance of the misappropriated ‘law’. The police say it is always for our own safety… there is no easy way to get them to see the lunacy of this statement when they make it in front of a drill rig they are facilitating into development with their services.

Is there a breaking point for us? There can’t be because what we are doing is too essential but there are certainly parts within us that ‘snap’.

I have had two episodes where I know I have been somewhat changed inside… the sort of change that although it adds to the determination to keep on keeping on and keeping on harder… but maybe a little something of the heart and spirit is damaged along the way. But this is a small price compared to what is experienced by those just like us, acting with the same urgency and motivation elsewhere in the world. Active citizens doing what we do are imprisoned, seriously hurt and killed in other countries and this fact… makes it all the more important that we DO NOT SUBMIT. We stand for our community of course but we also stand for all the others who do the same… one world, one water, one earth and air. I wonder what it is that gets us from our situation to theirs and only know that if we give up and say it is too much hurt, risk or difficulty – that we give up something very important in society.

Watching those we admire (if you’re fighting alongside us… you are amazing) getting hurt is so bloody hard… the natural sense of needing to peel off the police officer from their bodies or even thump the ones who threw them in the hedges or against fences, is hard to ignore. The problem is that all that anger builds and you can’t direct it at Cuadrilla because they’ve got the bubble-wrap of police around them and you can’t direct it at the police because they’ve got the protection of ‘law’ on their side. Honourable people fulfilling an obligation to safety in our community …are ‘the criminals’ in this scenario and that’s just plain bloody crazy.

It hurts to see anyone harmed and takes all our might to hold ourselves back… I swear a lot more now in place of constant charges of assault that would otherwise happen if I didn’t.

The eldest of my nieces is roadside with me and I have huge respect for the incredible job she does… her decisions are wise and I don’t worry that she makes dangerous choices as she’s intelligent and places her role as a mother as a priority. She was a distance from me last week during the exiting of a vehicle and all the crazy that comes with it… I glanced across and saw a tall, strong male body pushed up against the length of her from behind… his arms wrapped tightly round her front just below her breasts and as anyone would, saw obvious assault and ran to her. To me, her little face still looks as cute as it did when she was a toddler… I clawed at the officers hands to remove them but he had ‘law’ on his side. Our instincts that are natural, right and true are also attacked and squashed down into the growing tinder-box within ourselves and I wonder where this goes, what harms we are actually unaware of taking place within and how the hell we counter any of this.

Then I remember I am a grandmother and obliged to protect the young… and I remember George Bender and how the fight overtook him and the honourable lives lost where governments are even more brutal… and so I’ll get up and be there on day 502 and 3 and 4 until whatever it is that marks the last day.

To all who are at Preston New Road Rolling Roadside Protest and all who can’t be but ensure we are not unseen by sharing and supporting in any way possible – thank you, we will one day have time to pause, tend our wounds and heal past this theft from our lives.”

Tina Louise Rothery

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