Opponents of shale gas have been demonstrating their support for the first men sent to prison in the UK for protesting against fracking.
Simon Roscoe Blevins, 26, a soil scientist from Sheffield, and Richard Roberts, 36, a piano restorer from London, were jailed for 16 months each, while Rich Loizou, 31, a teacher from Devon, was sentenced for 15 months. A fourth man, Julian Brock, 47, from Torquay, was given a 12-month sentence, suspended for 18 months.
The sentences were imposed by Judge Robert Altham at Preston Crown Court on Wednesday (26/9/2018). The men had been convicted of causing a public nuisance after they stayed on top of lorries delivering to Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road for a total of 99 hours.
At the time of writing a video by the three men sent to prison, recorded before their sentencing, had 385,000 views from one Facebook page.
A petition calling on Preston Crown Court to free the three men had more than 7,500 signatures. A second petition calls on the UK government to protect the right to protest and not to “unfairly punish people who oppose fracking”. At the time of writing, this had received more than 12,500 signatures.
At Preston New Road, yesterday around 60 people gathered to express their opposition to the sentence.
In Sheffield, where Mr Blevins worked, a crowd gathered outside the city hall for a candle-lit vigil.
Last night, at Ecclesfield, Sheffield, the independent radiation expert, Dr Ian Fairley, spoke at a meeting about toxicity and fracking waste. He told DrillOrDrop:
“I can tell you that the anger in the 60+ audience against these jail sentences was palpable”.
There were also demonstrations at Haxby near York and at Glastonbury.
The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, who visited protesters at Preston New Road, described the sentences as “truly shocking”. He tweeted:
“Such severe jail sentences for peaceful protest fails to appreciate the strength of feeling of protesters and the local community against fracking.”
The meeting of Calder Valley Constituency Labour Party passed an emergency resolution supporting a campaign to release the three men and condemning the use of criminal sanctions to stop peaceful and political protest.
Gina Dowding, a Green Party member of Lancashire County Councillor, is joining women from across the country at a rally outside the Conservative Party conference on Monday (1/10/2018). She said:
“All the women coming to Birmingham are horrified that four men who were in Preston Court for protesting at Preston New Road last year were sentenced to over a year in prison. This heavy sentence for peaceful protest makes us more, not less, determined to make the Government see sense about the need for action on climate change.”
Updated 29/9/2018 with information about Calder Valley CLP