Campaign

Balcombe anti-fracking campaigner accuses protest police of intimidation and aggression

An environmental campaigner arrested on the second day of the Balcombe protests accused the police of unreasonably and disproportionately aggressive and intimidatory action.

Richard Millar, 30, from Brighton, told the city’s magistrates court this morning the police used pressure point tactics on him when he was arrested. Pictures of his arrest appeared on the front pages of many national newspapers and across the internet.

Mr Millar said he suffered a sore neck and jaw for two weeks and was badly shaken by the incident. “I was raised to believe that if you were harmed or in trouble the police were there to help and protect you. This [arrest] had a very long-lasting effect on me.”

Mr Millar is one of one of eleven campaigners on trial for obstructing the highway on July 26th by sitting on or near a log near the entrance to Cuadrilla’s oil exploration site. The others are: Ian Freeston and Mark Mansbridge, both 52 and from Lewes; Samantha Duncan, 30, from Brighton; Michael Atkins, 37, of Bristol; Frances Crack, 31, of Cardiff; Paul Deacon, 50, formerly of Worthing but now living in St Jean du Gare, France; Ezra Lynch, 31, of no fixed abode; Justin Preece, 44, of Pontypridd, Mid Glamorgan; Nancy Walker, 25, of London; and Marcin Swiercz, 36. All the campaigners deny the charge. Mr Atkins also denies assaulting a police officer by spilling tea on her.

Giving evidence, Mr Millar told the court he had played “roll a ball” with a toddler in the road for a long time before he was arrested. He also sat on the log many times. It had not, he said, been “a contentious point”. However, the nice festival atmosphere of the festival changed suddenly to one that was aggressive and intimidating. He said the actions of the police in arresting him were unreasonable and completely disproportionate.

Balcombe resident, Louisa Delpy, gave evidence as a witness. She said she visited the protest that day and that police had reassured her that they would protect her and her two young children. She also described a sudden change of atmosphere. She said she saw police manhandling people off the log, She said the police were hurting Mr Millar. “My son said ‘they are hurting him’. My son was traumatised by it for a long time afterwards.”

The court also heard evidence from Mr Freeston, who described how he had helped to move the log to create what he called an “art installation”. He said “I liked the idea of a tree trunk communicating with fossil fuels”. He described the log as a statement that “we need to have a conversation because I am not happy about what is happening”.

Another campaigner, Mr Lynch told the court he had checked with the police that they were happy about the log in the site entrance. He said “they were happy with every part of our set up.” Mr Lynch, a performance artist, described how he had been lying on a bed of nails outside the site gate when he was arrested. He said his actions had been designed to raise awareness of fracking and had not been a deliberate attempt to block the entrance.

The other campaigner to give evidence this morning, Mr Deacon, described how he was “outraged” because “it had been a peaceful and significant protest and the police came in and broke it up.

The case resumes this afternoon.

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