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Anti-fracking demonstrators “shifted in different directions” by police at Balcombe protest

4th April 2014

Section 14 trial: Day five – morning evidence
Police moved anti-fracking campaigners to different places outside Cuadrilla’s oil exploration site throughout a day of protest last year, without apparently knowing why, a court heard this morning.

Luke Evans, a 34-year-old Masters’ degree engineering student from Liverpool, was giving evidence at Brighton Magistrates Court. This was the fifth day of a trial of nine demonstrators arrested at a sit-down protest on August 19th. Mr Evans told the court: “People were getting shifted in different directions [by police]. Sometimes they were shifted into the entrance way and sometimes into the road. I asked police what they were doing. They said ‘I don’t know – we are told our formation and that’s all we know.’”

It is alleged that Mr Evans was part of a group that blocked the entrance of the site. It is also alleged he failed to comply with an order to go to a designated protest area on the verge and carriageway north of the entrance.

Mr Evans said he walked around the protest camp alongside the London Road, as well as the entrance area in front of Cuadrilla’s site. When he returned to the entrance area he said he was not stopped by police or told about the designated protest area. He said he had not heard about instructions to leave the entrance by three officers. Nor did he receive a leaflet about the protest area, he said.

When asked by his barrister, Shahida Begum, why he had been singing ‘We shall not be moved’, Mr Evans said it was the only song he knew the words to. He said he was not aware of the police officer who arrested him. He said he was pressure pointed by police and passed out. “I do not remember getting dragged away. My first memory was being on the grass by the police van. I remember a man shouting at me.”

The first he knew about Section 14, he said, was when he spoke to the desk sergeant at the police station. He said: “I asked the sergeant what we can do to get media attention. He said ‘If you are remaining peaceful that is the best you can do’”.

Jonathan Edwards, prosecuting, suggested that Mr Evans could be seen on the police evidence gathering film standing behind Caroline Lucas’s son at one point during the day. “That is a possibility”, Mr Evans said.

Mr Edwards put it to Mr Evans that he was obstructing the site entrance. Mr Evans said: “The site was closed. There were people standing in the road. The road was closed in both directions. There were lots of police around all over the place.” He said a vehicle could possibly have got through the entrance area. “There were tables and chairs in the area. They could have been moved”, he said. “There were media in there.”

Mr Edwards said: “You were told that if you didn’t move you would arrested.” “That is not my recollection”, Mr Evans said.

“You didn’t want to be corralled in an area of the police choosing because it would weaken your protest”, Mr Edwards said. “I didn’t know there was an area”, Mr Evans replied. “I still don’t really understand it now…I didn’t think there was anything wrong with protesting.”

Judge William Ashworth asked: “Was it obvious that you would be removed?” Mr Evans said: “It all happened pretty quickly. I don’t remember having any kind of discussion of what was going on and whether we should leave.”

Mr Evans is on trial along with Katie Brown, 34, and James Jones, 19, both from Liverpool, Camille Herreman, 26, and Matthew Whitney, 30, both of Nottingham, Phillip Cawkwell, 52, of Ascot, Chris Seal, 30, of London, Barry Slipper, 47, of Hythe, and Kim Turner, 57, of Brighton, are all charged with obstructing the highway. All but Mr Cawkwell are also charged with failing to comply with a condition imposed under the Public Order Act. All deny all the offences. Mr Seal had not attended the trial.

The trial continues with submissions from the prosecution and defence advocates.

Day four evidence – morning and afternoon

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