Legal

“Police trying to provoke protesters at Lancashire fracking site”, say injured councillors

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Photo: Peter Yankowski

Two councillors who were pushed to the ground during policing of protests outside Cuadrilla’s Lancashire fracking site last week have accused police officers of trying to provoke the demonstrators.

Miranda Cox, a member of Kirkham Town Council, and Roger Lloyd, an independent on Fylde Borough Council, both reported increasingly heavy-handed policing at the weekday protests outside the site at Preston New Road near Blackpool.

Cllr Lloyd hit his head when he was pushed to the ground on Monday last week (27/2/2017). Cllr Cox suffered leg pain when she was pushed and fell last Wednesday (1/3/2017). A woman next to her was knocked unconscious.

Escalation

In separate interviews, both councillors said they would be calling for a change of police tactics when they attended meetings this week.

Cllr Cox told DrillOrDrop:

“I have seen an escalation in the number of police and the way in which they are behaving.”

She said on Friday last week (3/3/2017), there had been four protesters at the site gate in the morning.

“We had a riot van each. We were outnumbered by the police by 15 to one.”

Cllr Lloyd said the police behaviour had changed in the past fortnight, coinciding with reports that Cuadrilla had complained about the protests to the Home Office and Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. He said:

“It’s almost as if the police had been trying to provoke violence. If they can provoke violence they can put an exclusion zone around the site.”

Cllr Cox said of the police:

“They are trying to provoke. They are trying to ignite. I think they want an excuse to escalate policing. They are not facilitating peaceful protest.”

“I have had fists in my back”

She said: “I have seen this escalate. I have had fists in my back in the past two weeks.”

She described how she was part of a group of protesters who were pushed together by police and held in one place for “a long time”. She said:

“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.”

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Photo: Peter Yankowski

She said the police formed a rank either side of the group, preventing other protesters from reaching them.

“I am trying to phone for an ambulance. But the operator couldn’t hear me because of the road. I asked the officers to use their radios to help me get an ambulance. They turned away from me. That is not what I was brought up to believe. That scared me.”

Cllr Lloyd was filmed by a protester being pushed by a police officer. He was given the all clear after going to hospital for a scan on his head.

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Still from video by Danny Nicholson

He said:

“The vast majority of protesters when I have been at the site are quite elderly. The police pushing and telling you to get back – it is extremely intimidating.

“We just feel that the police are very concerned with protecting local businesses and not protecting people protesting. The protesters have an equal right to be there.”

Cllr Lloyd said he believed the police had been directed to take a no-tolerance approach.

“The increased presence is highly intimidating, so much so that the protesters now call these police Cuadrilla’s Stormtroopers.

“This change in policing has resulted in assaults and a great deal of distress. … There was genuine shock, alarm and fear amongst the protesters as these new tactics rolled out.”

“Stark contrast”

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Preston New Road 18 January 2017. Photo: Ros Wills

Cllr Lloyd said this was a “stark contrast” to the early weeks of the protest.

“There was huge support from passing motorists and a relaxed cooperation from the police and protesters alike.”

Cllr Cox said there had been minimum policing at the start of Cuadrilla’s operation in January and early February.

“There were usually just two police liaison officers and one other officer for the first three-four weeks.”

She suggests the so-called “pop-up protests” blockading Cuadrilla contractors and suppliers marked the change of policing.

Both councillors complained that police had refused to facilitate slow-walking of lorries into the site, which had worked successfully at the start of the protest.

“Targetted arrests”

Cllr Cox added that the police appeared to be targeting specific people for arrest.

“People are being arrested on multiple occasions, predominantly young men and women. Lots of people are being arrested then released without charge.

“They [the police] are trying to ignite something. I do not think they will succeed.

“My feeling now is you are not intimidating me. You are making me more determined. I never thought I would hear myself say that.”

“We need a Gandhi moment”

Cllr Lloyd said the police needed to take a much calmer approach. He said:

“We need a Gandhi moment”.

He has asked Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Clive Grunshaw, to comment on the incident in which he was pushed and about the changes in police behaviour. He says he has not had a reply. Cllr Lloyd commented:

“It is said that a society can be judged by how it protects its most vulnerable. But it would appear the individual must now come second to corporate demands. Francis Egan has much to answer for.”

Cllr Cox said:

“There are places on that road where slow-walking could be facilitated without risk to road users or protesters.

“Their [the police’s] primary aim is to get that road open, the trucks in and the pad built.

“If they would acknowledge we have that right to protest it would diffuse the situation.”

Response

Lancashire Police said:

“Our approach is to ensure a consistent and coordinated policing response and ensure a balance between the rights of people to lawfully protest, together with the rights of the wider public, including local businesses, to go about their lawful activities.”

DrillOrDrop asked Lancashire Police to comment on the incidents involving Cllr Cox and Cllr Lloyd. We will update this post with any response.

Cuadrilla told us:

“Both Home Office and BEIS officials are aware of the protester activity in Lancashire and as the article we believe that the Home Office can “help give the Police greater clarity on the laws surrounding protest action so that police are able to protect local businesses”.

43 replies »

  1. Police brutality? Surely not? We all know how their objectivity, fairness and devotion to duty overcomes any instruction to intimidate, ignite and provoke escalation in order to enforce an exclusion zone?
    Police are only there to preserve the peace surely? To protect private interests of a private company above that of peaceful protest simply cannot happen…..can it?
    This would not be a symptom of the O&G industry loading the dice against the people of this country would it? No, that could not possibly be the case…..could it?

    • So you are happy that protesters deliberately block a licences legal business operation? Or should the police just permit a shut down of Cusdrillas operations by people preventing access?
      In any other country they would be using tear gas by now. The deliberate provocation by a small number of anarchist inspired activists needs to be stopped.

      • Anon (another one?)

        Lancashire police are fully aware of the right to protest and profess themselves committed to upholding that right. You may not like that, but to quote a Lancashire Chief Inspector “people have died for that right” and they clearly plan to uphold it, so they won’t be using tear gas any time soon.

        BTW -Your exaggerated claim that Cuadrilla’s operations have been shut down is quite ridiculous.

      • Yes. We care about the environment and people being able to breathe, not about profit at the cost of peoples’ health and welfare. Fossil fuels need to be left in the ground. The greater good must be more important than profit for a few.

  2. Interesting how Cuadrilla state the Home Office and BEIS are aware of the protests – no doubt they read about it in the Telegraph!

  3. The councillor exaggerated about being pushed into the ground. He was bounced off one of the protesters who was behind him in a shuffle against the police who just stood his ground. Watch the video again. The increasing aggressive behaviour of the protesters are evident to most public eyes so most will understand the police duty to respond appropriately and with the right balance. And really big deal about the little shuffle and fall. The protestors are crying wolf in this case.

    • Yes TW – watch the video again. See the policeman concerned brace for the shove on the 60+ year old councillor which is so strong that the lady he is pushed into staggers 2- 3 feet.

      I can assure you that this matter is being taken very seriously by Lancashire police.

      Let’s see what comes out of their investigation before talking about people crying wolf shall we TW?

    • We at the roadside believe that Cuadrilla being licenced to operate was wrong, they have failed twice already on the Fylde as well as somehow not being prosecuted for the disastrous toxic event into the Manchester ship canal!
      Cuadrilla have shown total disrespect for the Judicial Process and the Community by commencing work at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, therefore pre-judging the outcome of three legal challenges!
      They have totally ignored various Planning Conditions required by Lancashire County Council, who seem to be toothless in this regard, raising suspicion of orders from above yet again!
      IF YOU WERE A RESIDENT OF FYLDE, HOW WOULD STOP FRACKING?
      Or would you just quietly lie down and die, alongside your family and friends, when the toxicity and earthquakes start?

    • TW. Just why you imagine you are qualified to pass judgement on this incident where a totally innocent 67 year old man was brutally pushed to ground by police who are meant to protect the public is beyond me. I was standing right next to Roger Lloyd and he was most definitely pushed deliberately. He had only arrived on the scene minutes before. One minute we were standing there chatting and the next we were pushed together across the entrance simply to let a people carrier out. Roger fell down right by me. I stepped to the side and can remember saying to one of the policemen how disgusted I was that they could risk killing someone just to let a van out. I told him, I’m 70 years old. I used to respect the police but never again.
      I’m a local who has been at the roadside since Cuadrilla began in January. When there were just PLOs and slow walking protests were allowed there was no violence and no one was hurt apart from those hurt by Cuadrilla’s crazy driver. Since then the riot police have moved in and outnumber protectors around 3-1 with zero tolerance and kettling of bystanders. It’s obvious that there have been orders from on high to protect Cuadrilla at all costs. The police are storing up,a lot of trouble for the future in this area. Local people who previously respected the police will not forget their behaviour. They have lost all respect.

  4. I have seen some footage and the deliberate aggression and provocation of the protestors is appalling. Yes they have a right to protest, but to bang a spoon on a pan right in front of a policemans face, or to constantly shout obscenities and accuse the police of asssult? As for a slow walk, if I were to Slow Walk on the M 25 how long would that take before I was arrested?
    Protest means expressing your opinions in a free society. It does NOT include preventing a lawful activity by violence, threats, and intimidation.

    Oh, and the councillor may have been pushed, but he clearly tripped when another protestor moved back. It was a situation where the police were having to use pressure to get people to obey the law after all

    • You conveniently avoid looking when the police heighten your aggression then?! Also, are you aware that there is a massive public majority against franking. We don’t want it. The danger to people from this ham-fisted process outweighs the implications of blocking a road.. It is about the future of every person who aspires for a future for their kids. How do you progress when government simply ignores the majority in order to suck up to the corporations, like the sycophants they are.
      Oh yeah, and *anon*? Really?? So is that *the* anon, or are you a fake phoney spurious *anon*?! (Or are you just making a lame attempt to appear impartial while you float propaganda into this discussion??)
      ☣️

  5. No wonder Northern England is a deprived area with Cllr’ such as these. [Comment edited by moderator]

    • Thank you for that cogent and incisive contribution to the debate [Comment edited by moderator].

  6. Is it a surprise that the police have had to change tactics after the anti capitalist/anarchist sections started to get involved? Read through posts on this site over the last couple of months, for example. There are clearly individuals who know nothing about fracking but are just looking to make trouble.

    I have posted before about the reaction this would force. Our friend PhilC has himself stated that he was equally concerned about such involvement.

    Every action causes a reaction. If the “Protectors” are unable, and unwilling, to police such involvement, then the police have to. That is part of their responsibility.

    • So let’s get this straight Martin – you appear to be suggesting that Cllrs Cox and Lloyd are anti capitalist/anarchists then, and that this justifies the police actions? Really?

  7. What I “appear” to you refracktion is a welcome mystery to me.

    However, I am quite used now to your methodology ie. make a suggestion that someone is saying a certain thing and then argue with your own suggestion! Gives a better chance of scoring a point?

    I feel you have the intelligence to understand what individuals state on this site. The indication to me is that you do not recognise that others on this site are able to do so, so that you feel you can misrepresent what people post and your audience (“us”) will swallow it. I prefer to overestimate people rather than the opposite.

    • [Comment edited by moderator]
      So you weren’t saying that the Cllrs referred to in this article were anything to do with anti-capitalism or anarchy after all then? What were they then? Justifiable collateral damage in your inverse class war?

  8. Roll on a court decision that new oil and gas exploration flies in the face of our Paris accord agreement and human rights. The real criminality will become clear to all at some point but time is not on our side. Given the severity of ignoring the climate change road map, it justifies all hands on deck now while the less aware or less equitable catch up with reality and our policies are aligned to meet the underpinning needs of our ecosystems. Then maybe we will have a police force protecting us from threats to air pollution, water depletion, climate instability, climate driven immigration and ecocide, not protecting a smash and grab fracking industry.

  9. The national activists clearly have stall Cuadrilla work. Just see how much progress they make at the site. Suppliera are scared off [edited by moderator] while it is their legal right to choose their pathway of life that are approved and ligit by the rule od laws and by elected government. Enough is enough. These guys have the same rights to do their legal activities just as we do respect these mobs right to peacefully protests.

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