Opponents of Cuadrilla’s shale gas site near Blackpool say their right to protest has been “repeatedly trampled on” by Lancashire Police.
In a letter to the force’s incoming chief constable, Andy Rhodes, they called for a meeting on policing of protests at the site at Preston New Road.
The letter, signed by more than 300 people, was handed-in at Kirkham Police Station this afternoon. The signatories accused the police of “increasingly aggressive tactics and lack of respect for human rights”.
“The timing of an increasing zero-tolerance attitude to protests, just as the fracking industry and its supporters have called for you to ‘crack down on protesters’, has further damaged confidence and trust that the operation at Preston New Road is impartial and proportionate.”
“Lancashire Police has a legal duty to protect the right to freedom of assembly and a responsibility to provide greater transparency and genuine accountability for your operation and the conduct of officers who are part of it.”
Barbara Richardson, of Roseacre Awareness Group, was among about 100 people from across Lancashire who gathered outside the police station. She told the Blackpool Gazette the police presence at Preston New Road was “heavy-handed” and was facilitating Cuadrilla’s activities. She said of the policing:
“It’s not giving us the opportunity to protest in the peaceful way that we want to.”
She said policing costs, estimated at an extra £450,000 a month, were “over-the-top” because the presence was disproportionate.
“On the majority of days, there’s a few people there, normal residents like myself who just want to protest and there’s been three or four policemen to one person. That’s disproportionate.”
She added that lock-on protests had taken place off the carriageway and it was unfair to blame protesters for any traffic problems.
The letter, is supported by the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol), a national human rights organisation that has monitored the policing of anti-fracking protests since 2014.
It said it had been increasingly alarmed by Lancashire Police’s failure to learn from previous opposition to fracking in other parts of the country.
Netpol said it was particularly concerned about what it called “often extremely aggressive behaviour by officers”, arbitrary decisions about arrests and the way protesters were “pushed into the path of busy traffic with a lack of care about their safety”.
Kevin Blowe, the coordinator for Netpol, said:
“Concerns have been raised about the financial costs of policing the protests at Preston New Road but little thought appears to have been given to the legacy costs of this confrontational style of policing or the long-term impact it is having on relations between Lancashire Police and local people.”
“In the interests of transparency and accountability, we urge the new Chief Constable to agree to the request to participate and answer questions in an open public meeting and urge the Police & Crime Commissioner, Clive Grunshaw, to also attend and take part.”
At times tensions rose on both sides during today’s gathering.
In a statement on the Fylde Police Facebook page, Lancashire Police expressed disappointment at the behaviour of some who attended the event.
“Around 50 people attended the event which was expected to be a peaceful and silent vigil but which resulted in behaviour which included stopping a police car leaving the station on an emergency call.”
Supt Richard Robertshaw, of Lancashire Police, said:
“What today has shown is the very difficult job that the officers who are on the front line of the policing operation at Preston New Road have to deal with on a daily basis.
“Our intention is to facilitate peaceful protest We want people to be able to exercise their democratic rights. However that that needs to be balanced against by the right of Cuadrilla to develop the site in Preston New Road.”
“We don’t have a position on whether fracking is a good thing or a bad thing. We are very much in the middle trying to strike a balance between the protesting side of the argument and the development of the site.
“There are a vast amount of protesters who go about protesting in a peaceful and appropriate way and there are also others who are very aggressive. They are very much in the face of officers and acting in what I would describe as quite a threatening and aggressive way towards officers.
“What you will also see today is the professionalism of officers working on the operation. They know they’ve got a job to do. They know there are strong feelings. But they will also try to use the absolute minimum amount of force.”
Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Clive Grunshaw, said:
“Today’s event was billed as a silent vigil but instead we have seen a minority hijack this, trespassing on a police property and disrupting the service that officers are working hard to provide.
“These are Lancashire officers who are there to do their job, working to keep communities safe. Time and again we are seeing the police caught in the difficult position of balancing the rights of protestors to peacefully protest and the rights of companies and others to go about their lawful business. The conduct of some protestors today clearly went beyond peaceful protest and this kind of behaviour towards officers is not acceptable.”
Perhaps the Constabulary should consider whether imposing Fracking on the community of the Fylde is a good thing or not before abusing our Human Rights!
They must have family connections in Lancashire that are put in harm’s way by Fracking otherwise why would they be here?
‘Put in harms way’ Peter? Perhaps you could explain why all of the expert organisations in engineering, geology, and public health have no serious concerns about any of these issues. Shale gas extraction has taken place in total safety for many years in the US. Its the reason that the US has reduced air pollution, and CO2 emissions, as they have phased out coal.
Its not the job of the police to consider the political aspects of any protest. They are behaving with remarkable restraint in view of the anarchistic and aggressive actions of some. The ‘silent vigil’ yesterday at Kirkham was a case in point. A police car was prevented from attending a RTA, and the usual aggressive ‘in your face’ confrontation was laughable. https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1051699164960792&id=360197170777665&hc_location=ufi
also see video at https://twitter.com/thatslancs/status/864820522907033600/video/1
Peter-the job of the police is to uphold the law. When the law is being broken then they have a responsibility to take action. On the ground, they are not allowed to take any political views, they just do their job.
The Police Federation often DO take a political stance, but that is very different to what is allowable on the ground. If it wasn’t we would really be in a Police State (a term abused by your group), where the police were instructed what to do by the political party in control.
The legal system has been tried repeatedly by your side of the debate (fair enough), but you have lost. The legal system has concluded that Cuadrilla are currently conducting a perfectly legitimate operation, under the law. If you try and disrupt that there is only one option to the police. 70% of the population either support fracking, or have no opinion, according to the latest research, so I hardly see that the law is about to be changed to support your opinions. So, the police are left to apply the current law. As protests become more aggressive and/or disruptive their response will change. It is always the case, your group is well aware of that, so your complaints may be a tactic that is understandable but are hardly going to change the situation-that is in your own hands.
Lol what a lot of baloney. Normal people ie ones that don’t wear camouflage gear or try to look aggressive when shouting a lot of nonsense see the video footage online and are able to recognise the police are being extremely tolerant. There is zero support for these people hence why they’re losing their mini war.
“Infamy, infamy, they have all got it in for me.” Could have come straight out of “Carry on fracking.”
As an ex marketing professional, it is interesting to me that the antis are TOTALLY confused as to who their target audience is. (Any campaign should start with that determined.) Like Jeremy they target the most extreme elements of their own movement, which for both Jeremy and the anti-frackers basically says, “we know we are going to lose but we want to keep the extremists excited.” This policy stands no chance of changing minds outside of that relatively small group but I can offer that piece of advice knowing it will be dismissed, and even if it wasn’t, it is now too late.