Two men were arrested this morning as anti-fracking campaigners gathered at the gates of Third Energy’s shale gas site in Kirby Misperton for the arrival of the first delivery vehicles.
About 50 police and 100 opponents of Third Energy’s plans to frack its KM8 well were outside the site.
The protesters said a line of people prevented access to the site for about half an hour.
A police statement said “several” protesters were moved away from the site entrance. A 69-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer. He and a 33-year-old man were also arrested on suspicion of obstructing a police officer.
North Yorkshire Police later said the 69-year-old man accepted a caution for obstructing a police officer. The 33-year-old man was released with no further action.
The first deliveries to the site had been expected today after North Yorkshire County Council approved all the conditions of the company’s planning permission.
Work to frack and test the well cannot start until Third Energy has approval from the Environment Agency and Oil and Gas Authority for its hydraulic fracturing plan and final sign-off from the Business Secretary.
Monica Gripaios, from Hovingham, was among the protesters. She said:
“We came here to show our complete disapproval for fracking. The force used by the police was utterly disproportionate to the mood and actions of the peacefully assembled people’’.
Kirby Misperton Protection Camp said in a press statement:
“Many of those present had never been on the frontline of any kind of protest before, nor had they been approached by the police in this manner.
“The force used caused a great deal of distress and marked an escalation in the policing tactics, on this, the first day of the work beginning. For the younger protectors, it was particular upsetting to see those of their parents and grandparents generations being man-handled by the police.”
One resident of the protection camp said:
‘’Today was the culmination of 9 months work and the entire community were united in peaceful protest. We will not accept this sacrifice to our way of life. We will continue to protect our countryside and our democracy; one in which the will of the people is heard.”
“Police carry out duties impartially”
Earlier today, Superintendent Alisdair Dey, of North Yorkshire Police, said:
“We know that there are very different views about hydraulic fracturing, but as the local police, our responsibility is to carry out our duties impartially.
“We have a duty to make sure that people who want to assemble and protest do so safely, balanced against a duty to ensure that businesses can go about their lawful commercial activity.
“Police liaison officers have been engaging with the protest community, and will continue to do so, explaining what is acceptable in terms of safety and reasonableness.”
At about 5pm, the Kirby Misperton Protection Camp reported that another delivery was trying to enter the site and protesters remained at the site. The police confirmed that a 23-year-old man was arrested. He later accepted a caution for obstructing the highway.
In a later statement, Superintendent Lindsey Robson said:
“We’ll continue to take a neighbourhood policing approach to protests – that means we will talk to people, to explain what is acceptable in terms of safety and reasonableness and ask them to work with us to make this a safe and peaceful protest. We would rather talk to people and persuade them to move than have to make arrests”.
Eddie Thornton, the 33-year-old man who was arrested this morning and later released without any further action, said:
”An officer made the serious allegation that I had tried to steal his pepper spray. After reviewing the evidence North Yorkshire police have chosen to take no further action. I feel vindicated and will join my community in peaceful protest again tomorrow.”
Bob Gripaios, who was released with a caution, said:
“I have never broken the law in all my 69 years but I love Ryedale and I feel I need to protect it. The only avenue left open to us now is this protest campaign, however I would never harm anyone”.
James Mason, from York, who was attested later in the day, was released at 11pm with a caution. He said:
“It’s a shame that it has to come to this but I feel it’s my duty to be on the front line of this protest in support of my community.”
Updated 20/9/2017 with quotes and information from the police on cautions