Anti-fracking campaigners “face daily violence” in protest policing – new study


Protest policing outside Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site, 1 March 2017. Photo: Peter Yankowski

Anti-fracking protesters have experienced violence and intimidation from police officers, leading to physical injuries, trauma and a breakdown of trust, a new study reveals.

Campaigners told researchers they were shoved, pushed, dragged and physically restrained by officers, sometimes on a daily basis.

There were differences in the way male and female protesters were treated by officers, the authors concluded. They heard allegations that women protesters were groped and their clothing was pulled to reveal their breasts.

“These tactics have been understood by protesters as an exercise of power and have left women feeling violated and frightened.”

171010 pnr anne power

Anne Power, 85, dragged across Preston New Road in October 2017.

Disabled and older protesters were also subjected to violent policing, the study found.

Reports of inflammatory and antagonistic behaviour by officers towards protesters was particularly pronounced at Cuadrilla’s fracking site at Preston New Road, the study concluded.

It called for an investigation into policing at this site.

The authors, academics at Liverpool John Moores University, the University of York, and the School of Advanced Study, University of London, examined policing of protests over the past three years at seven protest sites. They interviewed 31 campaigners about their experiences.

The work built on earlier research into policing at the Barton Moss protests in 2013-2014.


Protest policing outside Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road, 1 March 2017. Photo: Peter Yankowski

“Deep sense of injustice and powerlessness”

The authors concluded that policing was having a chilling effect on protests with some people deterred from participating.

There was also “a deep sense of injustice and at times powerlessness to challenge the human rights violations that protesters have experienced.”

The researchers said:

“Some of these violent incidents have led to protesters reporting physical injuries, including severe bruising, broken bones and chronic pain.

“In addition to physical violence, protesters also cite the use of inflammatory and antagonistic behaviour, including verbal harassment and goading from police officers.”

This resulted in a series of brutalising effects including trauma resulting from fear, pain, distrust and anger, the

“The trauma protesters experienced as a result of this violence has had a chilling effect on the willingness of some campaigners to continue to participate in protests.”

They concluded that anti-fracking protests since 2016 had been “overwhelmingly peaceful”. While protesters sought to raise awareness about the shale gas industry and disrupt its operations, there was a shared commitment to peaceful protest, the authors said.

They found no evidence from the past six years to support the inclusion of anti-fracking groups in prevention of terrorism documents alongside organisations that posed a threat to national security.

“Disproportionate police response”

10th Mar 2017 (20 police line up)

Police outside Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site near Blackpool, 10 March 2017.

They also concluded that based on the experience of protesters since 2016, the police response had been “disproportionate” and had the effect of “undermining the right to protest”.

“At all sites, the nature and size of the policing operations appeared incongruous to the peaceful character of the fracking sites and camps, and the relatively small and largely local composition of the protesters involved.

“The quantity of police personnel deployed during these operations was understood as one contributory factor to the general hostile and antagonistic atmosphere experienced during daily protests.”

The study also accused police of redefining “acceptable protest”.

“It appears that protests are not considered ‘peaceful’ if they include any action that may involve breaking the law, no matter how peacefully.”

The National Police Chiefs’ Council is consulting on revised guidance on policing protests. Its lead on shale, gas and oil exploration, DCC Terry Woods said:

“The police service always welcome feedback concerning policing operations and we will always consider carefully issues raised with us.

“However, I feel there has been a missed opportunity to make this a more meaningful piece of research by not consulting the police for their side of the story, and limiting the research to the opinions of a small number of people with what appears to be a similar point of view.

“Nevertheless, the police service will continue to work tirelessly to engage with all interested parties and to balance the rights of all those protesting.”

DrillOrDrop also asked Lancashire Police to comment on the specific criticism of its force in the report. We will update this article with any response.

Kevin Blowe, coordinator of Netpol, the police monitoring organisation, said:

“This essential new report completely validates everything Netpol has been saying for five years about the oppressive policing of anti-fracking protests

“Netpol fully supports the report’s call for an independent investigation into Lancashire Police’s operation at Cuadrilla’s site at Preston New Road. The consistent complaints of “physical injuries and inflammatory and antagonistic behaviour towards protesters” demand urgent external scrutiny.”

Protesters’ experience of policing at anti-fracking protests in England, 2016-2019. A National Study by Joanna Gilmore, Will Jackson, Helen Monk and Damien Short

14 replies »

  1. A truly damning report, how can these police forces ever again be trusted by the communities they are supposed to serve and keep safe?

    And for what? To facilitate a government approved ponzi scheme run by cowboys with the reverse Midas touch (everything they touch turns to s**t).

  2. A truly damming report with input from one side only. Breaking the law is exactly that and the vast majority of the public will support the Police in taking action. Perhaps if the protests were peaceful and didn’t impact on road users and companies going about their lawful business their wouldn’t have been anything to write about? Universities are clearly going downhill if they support publication of one sided reports like this. But then we know this is the case since Blair opened the floodgates and offered degrees for everyone in anything.

  3. Paul Tresco, I’m sure Lancashire Constabulary were invited to join in this study but will have refused on grounds of national security or another spurious excuse!

    I have asked the Lancashire Constabulary many questions mostly without success.

    The latest being whether staff at the fancy new £21million Blackpool Police Headquarters, 2 miles away from PNR, felt the August Bank Holiday Monday fracking Induced 2.9 earthquake. They refused to answer because it would cost too much to find out the information! No matter I went to the local shopping centre, got talking to a police person at the garage and found out for myself! It was felt by the way but fortunately no damage was reported.

    I have also asked Lancashire Constabulary whether staff and officials had been briefed by them or their national colleagues on the likely disruptive activities of domestic terrorist groups at the Ladies Open Golf Championship at Lytham St Annes Golf Club. This was also refused, even on appeal, on the grounds of national security. Tell you what though, the event was flooded with highly visible policing at great expense to the Lancashire Council tax payer no doubt!

    • Regarding the Ladies Open Golf Championship, I was informed by a contractor leaving the event that this briefing did occur by the way.
      He told me I didn’t ask him.

    • Sky News | Royal Courts of Justice | Extinction Rebellion

      Extinction Rebellion: London protest police ban ruled ‘unlawful’ by the High Court


      The police’s blanket ban – which prohibited any assembly of more than two people linked to XR’s Autumn Uprising action – was condemned by the group as unlawful.
      Lawyers for the group argued at a hearing on 24 October that the rule, made under Section 14 of the Public Order Act, went beyond its powers by banning “multiple assemblies, both ongoing and intended”.

      It will be interesting to see if the overturning and deemed unlawful, where the Police attempt to ban any future XR protest under Section 14 from protesting in London, will have any effect on the protests at PNR and elsewhere? Incidentally when did the police start making the law and implementing it before making it public?

      • Also Incidentally, the crack against University students is utter tosh.

        My youngest daughter is presently working her way to her Masters next year and spends most of her free time studying. I see her occasionally and she will come back to stay for a weekend or during term breaks. Whatever they do in their own free time is welcome especially if it addresses social and public servant situations such as protests and the unlawful groping and intimidation and wrongful arrest actions used against them.

        My daughter is often studying late into the night and i have to tell her to go out for a walk with the dog if she is home with me, or go to bed and relax if she is in her digs. Sometimes we just chat until she can begin to relax, such is the pressure to achieve and her own determined work ethic. She will do well.

        I meet my daughters Uni friends as well sometimes. They are also hard working and like my daughter they will be in debt for decades even if or when they get a good well paid position. I have visited the University several times for events and talks and just to see how it compares to my days at Universit(ies) way back in the 70’s and 80’s and more recently.

        That derogatory hatred of University life isnt anywhere near the truth Paul. I have personally seen how difficult University life is. When was the last time you visited a University with that tired old jaded attitude? You would hopefully be pleasantly surprised, but perhaps it would destroy yet another illusion.

        I am proud of what my three daughters have achieved and i will not see that impugned by such miserable, miserly uninformed and unintelligent rants.

        Do try not to be such a grumbling old grouch Paul. I know the world is not how you imagined it to be. I wish i could say i was sorry for that, but i would rather see a bright future for my children and their children and what is happening now across the world is not at all before time and may even be not soon enough.

        There has to come a time Paul when we will all have to work together to build a better future for everyone. It is coming to that, and not just for a few flat cat fat cat frack hats licking the cream off the top to live in isolated luxury while the world burns.

        And the world is burning. Everywhere from Bangladesh to California to Siberia, Spain, Africa, and The Amazon forests in South America.

        There you are, a concise and accurate reply for those with just a little more than the criminally truncated anti anti attention span.

        • A lot of words PhilC. Regarding University Graduates I am pleased your daughter is doing well. Tuition fees should be abolished and the number of places cut significantly. The fees should be paid directly by the Government for English students as in Scotland I believe, or back to the old means tested grant system.
          “The fact is that approximately 53% of college graduates are unemployed or working in a job that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree. It takes the average college graduate three to six months to secure employment after graduation. A student benefits from having a career-seeking strategy and previous work experiences.Apr 30, 2019“

          • 1.32am. There you go. I often work nights. Fun isn’t it?

            No its not so easy to be a University student is it? Not such a Blairite free lunch for the ignorant unwashed at all.

            A hard punishing struggle and I have seen the results of that in the stress and sometimes breakdown of students who get crushed under the weight of overwhelming expectations.

            Thankfully my daughter is no slouch, certainly not as you suggested all students are layabout time wasters.

            Job hunting isn’t a post graduate sudden panic at all now. It’s all worked into the process. Many organisations pick and choose from the candidates long before they graduate to whatever degree.

            Many students work for free and it’s called experience, but it’s really a winnowing exercise.

            Yes they work for free. That is what your derogatory description of student life totally avoids mentioning.

            Breaks from university which should be a time to relax and take stock and study. But that is interfered with more pressure and stress.

            There are many breakdowns and suicides. I know that for a fact.

            That is the lie of your Blairite layabout utopia.

            Wake up and smell the roses. These people are the future, and looking at what passes for sanity in the UK, they do not like what they see, and they will change it from the inside.

            Short sweet timely and concise. No attention span limitation required. No Chronos abuse hang up. Talk to the Martian. The university student ain’t listening.

            Welcome to the real world.

            Have A Nice Day!

            • PS Getting back to the subject in hand, so to speak. What do you say about the police use of section 14 of the Public Order Act used to prevent XR assembling in London, and one assumes anywhere else. Being deemed to be unlawful in the courts?

              How will that effect the unlawful arrests at sites such as PNR and maybe Wressle, if that is allowed to slip under the moratorium net?

              And all reported by a student organisation. Now there is an interesting use of university time. An investigation into public servant behaviour in the light of protest.

              Protest being almost an almost compulsory university participation exercise. A good way to release all that stress from overwhelming expectations.

              Thoughts or grouch?

              • PPS you are in India Paul. Well that explains the Martian Chronos hang up, I shall have to say that next time that “burning the midnight oil” drivel emerges from that direction.

                Note to everyone else. In future if you post at odd hours you are “on India time” right?

                Nice one, I will enjoy using that.

                Still no comments about about the police use of section 14 of the Public Order Act used to prevent XR assembling in London, and one assumes anywhere else. Being deemed to be unlawful in the courts?

                Enjoy India and seeing the sights, well, as well as you can through the smog and stubble burning anyway.



            • Are you reading my posts in a parallel universe PhilC? Where do I mention layabout utopia and suggest students are layabout time wasters? These are your words not mine – is that what you think? [edited by moderator]

              • No parallel universe Paul, you said:

                “Universities are clearly going downhill if they support publication of one sided reports like this. But then we know this is the case since Blair opened the floodgates and offered degrees for everyone in anything.”

                Doesnt that imply a Blairite layabout utopia, and that you think that students are layabout time wasters? Or do words mean different things in one of those parallel universes….?….Parallel universities….? Hmm a parallel university sounds an interesting prospect.

                Thanks for that suggestion. I will use that again.

                I merely expanded extrapolations on your words into what you meant, just as you attempt to impute spurious extrapolations on mine.

                Fun isnt it?

                No diversions in India? Must be boring to keep coming back here? (that is “here” in the strictly local sense, no co-ordinates available)

                Have Fun!

                • Still no comments about about the police use of section 14 of the Public Order Act used to prevent XR assembling in London, and one assumes anywhere else. Being deemed to be unlawful in the courts relative to PNR and Wressle?

                  Never mind. A Blairite layabout utopia, and that you think that students are layabout time wasters must be a more relevant concept?

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