Attempts to clamp down on peaceful protests are sinister and very dangerous, the co-leader of the Green Party said this lunchtime.
Speaking outside the High Court, Jonathan Bartley backed six women challenging an injunction against anti-drilling protests. They were also backed by Friends of the Earth, which likened the injunction to “peeling a grape with a steam roller”.
The injunction, sought by the exploration company, UK Oil and Gas, aims to prohibit a range of protest activity. The company has been giving evidence today, to be reported separately by DrillOrDrop.
Mr Bartley told the women and their supporters:
“You are at the forefront of such an important fight.
“There is a concerted effort to clamp down on peaceful protect and democratic right. The government is riding roughshod over local communities, overturning decisions made by democratically-elected local authorities.
“The results of this injunction case are crucial. We have to fight back.
“It is very sinister and very dangerous. We see what happens throughout the wold when people do not stand up and speak out.”
Mr Bartley, accompanied by Green Party leader, Amelia Womack, said:
“This is a line in the sand in the fight to protect the right to protest and to defend out local communities.
“This is not just about the right to protest against oil and gas drilling. It is also about street trees in Sheffield, HS2 and the right to self-determination by local communities.
“The injunction is a watershed moment about the right to protest.”
Friends of the Earth was refused permission today to intervene in the case.
Dave Timms, the organisation’s Head of Political Affairs, applied to provide a Witness Statement to the High Court. This expressed Friends of the Earth’s fears about the impact the injunction would have on lawful and legitimate opposition to UKOG’s drilling plans.
“The breadth and scope of this injunction is outrageous and we are deeply concerned about its impact on free speech and the right to protest. This isn’t so much taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut than peeling a grape with a steam roller.”
“We support the six brave local women who have come forward as defendants to fight this case. It is about much more than stopping drilling though our countryside. We must also stop these companies from undermining our democracy.”