Frack Free Lancashire have announced they are ‘horrified’ by the escalating police violence that campaigners have faced at the fracking company Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site on the Fylde Coast. Tensions reached a head on Wednesday (March 8th) with reports that local farmer John Tootill had been assaulted by police and arrested.

Concerns surrounding heavy-handed policing of anti-fracking protestors have reached new heights since the publication of a damning report by the Network for Police Monitoring (NetPol) last year. The reports coming from the Preston New Road protestors, that demonstrators ‘are regularly facing assaults and aggressive policing methods, including the use of pressure points to subdue peaceful protestors’, are consistent with the NetPol report.

According to NetPol’s coordinator, Kevin Blowe:

“Lancashire Police have a duty not only to ‘facilitate’ protest but to ensure the right to freedom of assembly is genuinely protected. When campaigners face uncertainty from one day to the next about whether they might suddenly face arrest or the prospect of disproportionately violent policing, this fundamental right is threatened.
“Once again, we urge the Chief Constable and Police and Crime Commissioner, Clive Grunshaw, to publish a plan for the policing of protests containing a clear set of minimum standards and expectations about police conduct and tactics. They need to start listening to local communities about the right to protest against a site that has been overwhelming rejected by the people of Lancashire.”

Claire Stephenson from the Preston New Road Action Group added: 

“The escalation of aggression by the police into what can only be described as gratuitous violence, seems inextricably linked to Francis Egan’s pleading visit to the Home Office to ask for governmental intervention on anti-fracking campaigners in Lancashire. The community and campaigners have been treated with utter contempt.

“Assaults carried out by police on protestors have caused many injuries, including two of our councilors. The daily planning breaches that are occurring, without consequence for Cuadrilla, clearly demonstrates the inadequacies of this non-starter of an industry and its imaginary regulations. The bias is staggering and we will continue to strongly, but peacefully, resist.” 

The latest on the Preston New Road protests can be found here. Image credits Peter Yankowski.