The three anti-fracking campaigners released from jail by the Court of Appeal yesterday said they would continue to take direct action against fossil fuels until they saw change.
Returning to Cuadrilla’s shale gas site today, Richard Roberts, Rich Loizou and Simon Roscoe Blevins said it was time to take a stand against fossil fuels for the sake of the climate.
Soil scientist Simon Roscoe Blevins, 26, told journalists and supporters:
“Lancashire said no to fracking and that was overturned. And that’s why people are taking direct action. Not that we want to, not that we haven’t got better things to do but because we have to. And we have to do it now.”
The three men were jailed on 26 September 2018 for 15 and 16 months after being found guilty of public nuisance. They had climbed onto the cabs of lorries to slow down deliveries to the Preston New Road fracking site. The protest, in July 2017, lasted a total of 99 hours.
The men spent three weeks in prison before yesterday’s hearing, at which the Lord Chief Justice said the jail sentences were “manifestly excessive”. Their prison terms were replaced with two-year conditional discharges. (DrillOrDrop report)
Piano restorer Richard Roberts, 36, said it was time to step up the action on climate change:
“It’s not something you do on a whim. It’s because we had no other option. We learned at school in the 1990s in GCSE Geography the impact of burning fossil fuels on the world and on future generations.
“It’s been so frustrating to get to 2018 and we still don’t see concerted action from government on this. We’ve pursued democratic means, we’ve done petitions, for decades. That’s been done, and now it’s appropriate that we escalate and that we do take direct action to stop fossil fuel industries and we will continue to take action until we see change.”
He said the three had been reminded while in prison of the impacts of climate change on people across the world, through floods, famine and drought.
“That’s made us realise that what we’re going through can be tough but we’ve got to do it. We’ve got to take a stand, we’ve got to escalate, we’ve got to take this really seriously.
“Let’s see the 2020s as a serious concerted change from government, from communities, towards a sustainable future, where we don’t need the gas because we’ve insulated our homes properly and we’ve scaled up renewable energy.”
Teacher Rich Loizou, 31, said the three had been helped while in prison by letters and messages of support. A rally in Preston on Saturday 6 October attracted about 500 people. He said:
“To hear there was music and demonstrations. From our cell, we could hear the drumming, we could hear the cheering. It really kept our spirits up.”
The three are thought to be the first people sent to prison in the UK for taking part in anti-fracking protests. They were also described in court yesterday as the first people sent to prison as punishment for taking part in an environmental protest since the mass trespass on Kinder Scout in 1932.
Simon Roscoe Blevins said:
“Everyone [in jail] thought it was ridiculous that we were sent to prison, which it is, because it’s the 21st century, it’s Britain, we shouldn’t be doing this. People shouldn’t be sent to prison for protest, especially when it’s necessary.”
The men’s legal team is now considering an appeal against their convictions. A complaint is being investigated by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office into the judge at their trial and sentencing. His sister had publicly supported Cuadrilla’s shale gas plans in Lancashire and shale gas in general.
The three men are expected to take part in a National Climate Crisis Rally at Preston New Road on Saturday 20 October 2018.