A photographer has faced severe treatment by police after covering an anti-fracking protest in Greater Manchester.
Oldham-based Peter Yankowski-Walker, 53, was arrested in Horwich, Bolton, on February the 28th, nine minutes after arriving at a demonstration outside AE Yates, a company who have supplied oil and gas exploration firm Cuadrilla with a drilling pad for their controversial fracking work in Lancashire.
While photographing the demonstration, Yankowski-Walker was arrested for obstructing a public highway – after almost being knocked down by one of AE Yates’s trucks. He was held in a prison cell for 10 hours before being charged. Yankowski-Walker believes he has been unfairly targeted by police because of a government crackdown on journalists sympathetically covering anti-fracking demonstrations.
At his subsequent appearance at Bolton Magistrates Court police presented the criminal record of another man as Yankowski-Walker’s, a mistake they later admitted – yet the same incorrect criminal records was presented at a second court date in Manchester nine days later.
Peter Yankowski-Walker does not have a criminal record.
During his police interview after his arrest, Yankowski-Walker said police tried to coerce him into admitting guilt; he claims this excessive form of policing is part of a government-led attack on protest and suppression of information surrounding fracking.
Peter Yankowski Walker said: “I am trying not to be paranoid, but when sat in a dock after not even committing a crime and to see the effort to prosecute someone for something so trivial is mind blowing and a waste of taxpayers money. Especially as the incident was live-streamed and completely backs up my statement.
“Independent photographers and film-makers are seeing a trend unfolding as in the last few months the police have stepped up their arrest rates on anti-frackers. Valued footage has helped cases to clarify that no wrongdoing occurred and it seems now, those who document and provide evidence are being targeted too. Photojournalists, documentary filmmakers and live-streamers have contacted me to say that that they are experiencing less tolerance by the police and more oppression, whist collecting evidence and imagery of social change.
“I feel that my case is being treated more seriously because of the links with documenting the protest against hydraulic fracturing than it would be if it was another subject. I am honour-bound however to continue to do my job; unbiased grass roots reporting is essential in providing a balanced picture.”
The rise in heavy handed policing of the anti-fracking movement and its potential effects on the freedom to protest has been well documented. A detailed report from the Network for Police Monitoring can be found here.
Yankowski-Walker under the name Peter Walker is due to appear before a district judge at Manchester and Salford Magistrates Court, Crown Square, M60 1PR Time 9.30am May 15th, 2017.