The shale gas company, Cuadrilla, said today many of the protests at its site near Blackpool were by a “small hard-core” of national activists and were neither peaceful nor lawful.
The company was responding to concerns raised yesterday by the Green Party that the right to protest was under threat at the Preston New Road exploration site. (DrillOrDrop report)
In a reply to a letter from the party’s co-leader, Jonathan Bartley, Cuadrilla accused the Greens of a “lack of awareness about the reality of much of the protest” at the site.
But Frack Free Lancashire, one of the groups opposing Cuadrilla’s shale gas operations, in turn accused the company of “outright desperation” and said its chief executive, Francis Egan, himself seemed “far-removed from the realities of Preston New Road”. The group vowed to continue peaceful non-violent direct action at the site.
Yesterday, Mr Bartley urged Cuadrilla to answer allegations of violence against protesters by security guards and staff at its site near Blackpool. In a hand-delivered letter, he expressed “grave concern” about reports that one protester had been hit by a truck leaving the site and another had been punched and held by the throat by security staff. Link to Green Party letter)
Mr Bartley said:
“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.”
In a reply made public by the company today, Mr Egan said police officers and Cuadrilla employees and contractors had been “subject to daily abuse and intimidation”. Cuadrilla’s reply to Green Party letter
Mr Egan said:
“Much of the protest activity, carried out by a small hard-core of national activists, is very far from peaceful or in many cases lawful.”
The letter added:
“Protestors’ democratic right to lawfully protest should not and does not over-ride workers and companies’ right to lawfully go about their daily work free from abuse, intimidation and road blockages.”
Mr Egan invited the Green Party co-leader to join him in “unreservedly condemning all unlawful and aggressive protest activity of the type we have sadly seen all to frequently outside the Preston New Road site”.
He said the alleged assault on a protester was the subject of a police investigation, as were allegations of subsequent harassment and intimidation of the security officer.
In response to the incident involving a van leaving the Preston New Road site, Mr Egan said:
“No member of Cuadrilla staff was involved, the driver in question did not drive away from the scene and you, or anyone else, can read the Police account of the alleged incident on the Fylde Police Facebook page.
The letter continued:
“The police statement makes clear that the protestor concerned declined to speak to the Police and that the driver had taken evasive action to try and avoid the person who came into contact with the van.”
“Blaming protesters for violence is desperate spin”
Frack Free Lancashire said:
“Mr Egan seems once again, far-removed from the realities at Preston New Road. Perhaps it’s because he himself is not actually local.”
Spokesperson, Claire Stephenson, said:
“The ‘hardcore national activists’ Mr Egan refers to is incorrect.
“If he’d bothered to engage with the local community over the years, he’d see the same local mothers, grandmothers, fathers, grandfathers and so on, standing up against his misguided notion that he could walk into Preston New Road, without a challenge.”
Ms Stephenson said the man hit by a flatbed truck leaving the site had lodged a complaint with the police.
“The continued violence and aggression witnessed on camera and video feed is undeniable and to try and spin that in the direction of campaigners, smacks of outright desperation.
“Our peaceful protests, non-violent direct action challenging this company will continue until the day they leave Lancashire. They should expect continued resistance. We said no, and we meant no.”
- See DrillOrDrop’s Protest Update 10-16 July 2017 and Protest Update 3-9 July 2017 for more details and links about these incidents and comments from the police and people involved.