The Green Party is calling on the shale gas company, Cuadrilla, to answer allegations of violence by security guards and staff against protesters at its site near Blackpool.
Party co-leader, Jonathan Bartley, hand-delivered a letter to Cuadrilla’s chief executive today expressing “grave concern” about two recent incidents.
Last week security staff allegedly punched an activist and were photographed holding him by the throat. On Monday a protester was hit by a van leaving the site.
During a visit to demonstrators outside the Preston New Road site, Mr Bartley said:
“Cuadrilla must respond to these serious allegations immediately. Protest is a pillar of our free society and democracy. Cuadrilla must make clear what it is doing to investigate and ensure violence is never used against anyone at its site.”
Direct action at the site has increased this month with a “Rolling Resistance” protest organised by local groups and the Reclaim the Power network. Since Monday this week, policing has been 24-hours as Lancashire Constabulary began using officers from other forces.
The letter asks Cuadrilla’s Francis Egan, whether he was aware of the allegations, what investigations were underway and what actions would be taken against the staff if the allegations were substantiated.
Mr Bartley also asked what processes were in place to ensure that contract staff conducted themselves “safely and appropriately” in future and what steps would be taken to ensure violence did not happen in future.
Robbie Gillett, who alleged he had been assaulted by a security guard, said:
“Cuadrilla’s staff were in no way justified in punching me in the face whilst already restraining me on the floor of a public highway, nor in strangling me as the photos show. That amounts to common assault. This was a violent, disproportionate and unlawful use of force which is a typical of an industry that has no social licence to operate.”
Lancashire Police confirmed the incident was being investigated.
The protester hit by the van denied suggestions that he threw himself in front of the truck. Ashley Robinson said yesterday:
“I’m quite shocked that it has been suggested I threw myself in front of a truck. I was exercising my right to peaceful protest and attempting to slow-walk the vehicle out of the site, when it hit me.
“The driver appeared not to take any action to avoid me, as suggested by some media reports, and he did not even stop after hitting me.
“This is my first time I’ve ever been involved in a campaign like this. I am a local man and father from Blackpool. Since Cuadrilla arrived at Preston New Road, I have been part of a peaceful protest against their undemocratic presence in Lancashire. I believe that fracking is detrimental to the future of the climate and our children’s health and I will continue to oppose it.”
Fylde Police said on its Facebook page the driver tried to take evasive action to avoid hitting the protester. The statement said the driver gave a negative breath test and “all other personal and vehicle checks were correct and in order”.
DrillOrDrop invited Cuadrilla to respond to the Green Party letter. This post will be updated with any comment from the company.
On the day of the alleged assault on a protester (5 July 2017), Cuadrilla made this statement:
“We understand that the protestor was appropriately restrained and then handed over to Police, who were present throughout the brief incident. The matter is now in their hands and we will assist them in any investigation which follows.
“Since the incident, the employee concerned and his family have been subjected to unacceptable harassment and intimidation, which is also under investigation by the Police.
“Cuadrilla does not tolerate any behaviour which puts our employees, our contractor or law abiding members of the public at risk. Our security team and the Police are trained in dealing with protestors and are committed to ensuring that situations such as this are dealt with in the correct way.”