Police under scrutiny as officers remove campaigner from second tower at N Yorks fracking site

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Police build a scaffolding tower at Kirby Misperton, 9 October 2017. Photo: Michelle Easton

In the past few minutes, police in North Yorkshire have removed an anti-fracking campaigner from an observation tower next to Third Energy’s fracking site at Kirby Misperton.

To cheers from supporters, Eddie Thornton, was lowered to the ground in a canvas stretcher and taken to police van.

Campaigners say the tower, made from pallets over the weekend, allowed them to document the operations of police and security guards at the site entrance.

Mr Thornton, spent last night in the tower and broadcast live video during the day. He has been arrested on suspicion of causing a danger to road users and obstructing a police officer. He said the police had failed to say how he was obstructing their duties and has refused to come down.

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Negotiations between police and Mr Thornton, 9 October 2017. Photo: still from video by Eddie Thornton

This is the second tower constructed on the grass verge near the site entrance. The first tower was removed by police after they used fire service equipment to extract a campaigner.

The Fire Brigades Union, which has voted to oppose fracking, criticised the use of its hydraulic platform.

In the past hour, Mr Thornton has filmed officers using climbing gear removing his bedding, food and water from the tower. He was then strapped into the stretcher to be brought down by a specialist climbing team.

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Eddie Thornton being lowered to the ground at Kirby Misperton, 9 October 2017. Photo: Eddie Thornton

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Eddie Thornton being lowered to the ground at Kirby Misperton, 9 October 2017. Photo: Eddie Thornton

He said:

“All I want to do is observe and document what is happening at the entrance to the fracking site.

“I am causing no disruption or obstruction – you’d think they’d prefer me to be up here in a tower.

“I’ve explained my intentions to the Sergeant below, that I’m only here to observe, and I have asked him not to waste further resources on me as I mean no-one any harm.”

Earlier today, Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP for southern England, a critic of policing at anti-fracking protests, visited campaigners and threw some warm clothing up to Mr Thornton.

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Keith Taylor MEP at Kirby Misperton, 9 October 2017. Photo: Keith Taylor

Mr Taylor said:

“UK police forces work on the fundamental principle of consent, but if local residents are beginning to question whether officers are working to protect them or just the interests of the oil and gas industry the notion of consent has broken down – and trust must be repaired.”

There were angry scenes during Mr Taylor’s visit when police were accused of forcibly moving Jackie Brookes, a 79-year-old great-grandmother who had been serving tea and cakes to protesters.

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Mr Taylor said:

“What I’m particularly concerned about is the tactics some of the police are using here, and across the country. That is why I’m calling for the National Police Chief’s Council to urgently review its guidelines for the policing of fracking protests – it’s a call that I’ve been making for months but so far remains unheeded.”

“It is becoming increasingly clear that political pressure is being brought to bear on police forces to act as the legal enforcers in a drilling debate the government is losing. The Government is in danger of allowing industry interests to undermine our fundamental freedoms.

“An authoritarian crackdown on British citizens’ right to protest will not change that truth. I and my Green colleagues will continue to stand up for and stand alongside fossil fuel protesters across the UK.”

Superintendent Lindsey Robson, of North Yorkshire Police, made a statement on today’s operation:

“Officers had to move several people away from a tower of pallets this morning, after we received advice from the local authority that it may not be safe. While some people were unhappy, we spoke to them and asked them to move for their own safety, which they did. We will always act to protect people from harm.”

A police spokesperson denied that the woman serving tea had been arrested. Police action around the tea table had been related to the wooden tower, he said.

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Leigh Coghill, Kirby Misperton, 9 October 2017.

Leigh Coghill, of Kirby Misperton Protection Camp, explained why campaigners needed the tower:

“It is really important that we document what happens here and the way that people are being treated by police and private security over the last couple of weeks of this campaign. We’ve seen a real assault taking place and it’s really important that we retain the right to be able to document what happens.”

Campaigners have accused the police of targeting citizen journalists and people filming the protests. A spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police denied this:

“It is completely wrong to suggest anyone has been arrested for filming. Citizen journalism is a feature of modern life, and police officers are now photographed and filmed more than ever. We recognise the valuable role of the media and amateur photographers, and will seek to co-operate with them as much as possible.”

But this afternoon Cat Cray posted a video showing a police officer arresting a camera operator on the pavement in Kirby Misperton.

20-minute blockade

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Blockade, Kirby Misperton, 9 October 2017. Photo: North Yorkshire Police

North Yorkshire Police allowed protesters to block the Kirby Misperton site entrance for 20 minutes this afternoon to delay a convoy of four flatbed articulated lorries from leaving.

Superintendent Alisdair Dey, of North Yorkshire Police, said in a statement:

“We need to balance the rights, needs and wishes of everyone at the site, including those who want to assemble and protest safely and peacefully.

“Every day, officers will engage with the protest community, explaining clearly what is acceptable in terms of safety and reasonableness, and what action will be taken if necessary.”

But the impartiality of the police has been questioned in the local media.

Writing to the Gazette and Herald, Barrie Gillespie, of Malton, asked whether the police were, as they have consistently stated, carrying out their duties impartially.

“We may question whether the presence of some 50 police officers and the imposition of stringent constraints on the protesters’ activities are really impartial.

“Article 11 of the Human Rights act enshrines the right to protest peacefully and the Government’s own guidelines recognise that legitimate protest may include inconvenience and nuisance to others.

“The police do indeed have a duty to uphold that right and to defend protesters no less than others. Events at Kirby Misperton look quite different to this.”

Christopher Pickles from Gilling East, also writing to the Gazette and Herald, said:

“On September 15, the sight of 24 police marching in to remove a few young people in order to let a security van in and out of the KM8 site made a memorable image. Do we want the police to be used in this way, supposedly in our name?”

June Smith, from Helmsley, writing in the same paper, said:

“After standing at the gates of a potential fracking site at Kirby Misperton, I realise we now live in a police state. Democracy is dead. What our soldiers fought and gave their lives for has gone.

“To find a policeman in Helmsley is like discovering a pot of gold, but they are present at KM8 in huge numbers to facilitate a dirty industry that will destroy our countryside and way of life, the air we breathe and the water we drink. Their vehicles block the roads both to Kirby Misperton and Habton.

“I never thought I would witness scenes like this in Ryedale. Local people should visit the site to see first hand what is happening. Perhaps our MP Kevin Hollinrake who has supported and pushed for this industry should visit the site and see how his constituents are being treated.”


A statement from North Yorkshire Police issued at 10.30am on 10 October 2017 said:

“A man has been arrested and released on bail after climbing onto a tower made of pallets at Kirby Misperton.

“The 33-year-old man was removed from the top of the structure by a team of specially-trained police officers, at about 5.45pm on 9 October 2017.

“He was arrested on suspicion of causing a danger to road users, and obstructing a police officer. He has been released on bail this morning as enquiries continue.

“The tower of pallets, which was on the verge of Habton Road, was dismantled by the local authority.”

Updated 10/10/2017 to include statement from North Yorkshire Police

11 replies »

  1. Why are there no comments here? I thought the antis would be up in arms about this?
    Anyway looks like another person out to cause general nuisance.
    Did anyone see the protestors on Landward the other night? Would give them a wide berth!

    • Age before wisdom! Ha! Ha!
      We know how the ranti ranti’s are desperate to be first on these posts, so we all waited for “those types” to get their collective pejorative bores in first. Story of their life!
      Well done!
      Perhaps you could elucidate for us exactly how is a member of the public standing peacefully on the pavement filming exactly as the police state clearly is “supported” by them, comes to be arrested for being unable to produce a……….driving licence?……..when he is clearly not even in a car?
      Do tell, please show in detail how that is an arrestable offence?

  2. If the protesters got out of the way, there would be no need for the police. If the intention is to blockade the site, the police have to do whatever is necessary. Otherwise that would mean mob rule is the government of the country. Its quite pathetic to see the complaints concerning Human Rights. You have a right to express your disapproval. Blockading means you are open to arrest.

    • Two id’s in one page? Dear dear, how many times have we been here?
      No fracking, no protest, no policing, no problem, ranti ranti logic seems locked into refusing to acknowledge the root cause resulting from their own actions which cause the whole problem in the first place?
      In Saudi Arabia any westerner is seen as an intruder, hence if a Saudi drives his car across the road into the opposite lane into a westerners car, the Saudi logic says it’s the westerners fault for being there in the first place?
      That is the same truncated logic displayed by that post, the fault of the Saudi driving on the wrong side of the road is ignored, the attention is placed exclusively on the westerner for being there at all.
      So, congratulations for promulgating truncated Saudi logic here in UK?
      Frackers are on the wrong side of the UK logic road, it’s as simple as that.

      [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

  3. Unfortunately the majority of the media have been demonising the anti frackers – they choose the most controversial they can, but this beginning to change at last. The police are filming what goes on at the gates, the energy company are filming what goes on at the gates, the protectors can in theory, but not in practice, this gentleman was trying to do just that – provide a live screen from the gates. Up a tower – certified safe by a health and safety officer – with a camera who was he threatening – who was frightened of being exposed as behaving incorrectly – the Police and/or Third Energy?
    We should thank him for showing how ludicrous the situation has become and for trying to protect our water, environment, health service and taxes because we end up paying to try and clear up the damage left behind.

    • The majority of the media has been making the protestors look like some form of messiah’. A typical leftie comment to say the media is against you.

      • Yours is a typical comment by someone who doesn’t understand the issues.
        1) The quantity of exploitable gas in these deposits has now been shown to be far less than first claimed.
        2)The drill operators will see far more profits than the ones extracting the gas.
        3) To extract the gas it is necessary to pump MILLIONS of gallons of a mix of mud, water and toxic chemicals into the wells.
        4) No matter how much of this poison is collected and moved to a ‘safe’ disposal facility there is always a significant %age that cannot be extracted.
        5) The remainder WILL get into the water table and contaminate it. So far it has at every existing fracking site worldwide.
        6) Many Conservative MPs have either direct links to the frackers or drillers or own shares in shell companies that own shell companies that own …
        7) So far the most contentious fracking sites were denied licences by the local authorities, but were overruled by the government without having been given any reason for it.

        Where are the lefty claims of a conspiracy by the billionaire owned MSM?

        Gibbs Rule number (I forget) If you think someone is out to get you, they probably are.

        • Hi Jan,

          Sorry but your post is not correct.

          1) They have yet to do any testing and therefore find out how much gas can actually be extracted.
          2) Perhaps they will, if the tests show that it is uneconomic.
          3) If you define Frac fluid as toxic, then so are many of the contents of your kitchen. You may want to do a search on the web for where a Halliburton Exec actually drinks Frac fluid.
          4) Using emotive language such as ‘poison’ is counter-productive to you argument. The flowback fluid from Presse Hall was widely touted by anti-frac campaigners as being toxic and radio-active – when it wasn’t.
          5) No, it will not. In the UK, the Frac’ing takes place thousands of feet below the water table and at least two cemented, tested casings away.
          6) Often asserted, but I’ve yet to see anyone provide any evidence.
          7) If the Local Authority over-rules the recommendation of the Council Officer(s) responsible for reviewing the application without providing adequate justification, then they themselves can be over-ruled by Central Govt.

          What has Methylsulfonylmethane got to do with this?

          Yes, Gibbs Rule No. 40 is right – just because I am paranoid, it doesn’t mean they are not out to get me 😉

    • Hi Lyn,

      I suggest you go and visit one of the many Wellsites in the UK that have been restored by the Operator after use. You will be hard put to find any evidence at all that it was ever there.

      As for the tower of pallets being certified as safe by an HSE Officer? Not a chance of that happening by a qualified HSE Officer.

      In the meantime, I suppose everyone can go on filming everyone else, while the Sun will still rise in the East rise every morning and set in the West every evening..

      • Like many you’re accepting the limited ‘truths’ of the fracking lobby.
        So what if there’s as much gas here as they claim? Overall it’s been shown by test drilling that many (if not most) sites have fallen well short of supply predictions.
        If fracking fluid isn’t so toxic why is it that it has to be disposed of under identical precautions as used for some of the most toxic chemicals? I can’t speak for people claiming radioactivity and didn’t mention it myself.
        As for contaminating the water table. Maybe it hasn’t happened here, but it has many times in the US. And guess where the technology we’re using here comes from.
        If central government can overrule the local authorities who are backed by the voters, why should we have a local government at all? Of course proven MP financial ties to fracking and drilling companies didn’t influence their decision, did it?
        Mind you; you don’t live within miles of a fracking site. Or even a potential one. Neither do I, but I don’t want to see the environment destroyed to feed the bank balances of people already richer than Croesus.
        When money – especially in huge quantities – is involved, it’s hardly surprising that people will turn a blind eye to any and all negative effects for a sniff of the pot. Do you really believe that it’s mere coincidence that the Conservative party receives such large donations from big business, while Labour, the party of the people, has to rely on coppers in comparison?

        Corruption rules; and always has done.

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