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Barton Moss anti-fracking protester, March 2014, photo D Murphy
Barton Moss anti-fracking camp: court backs off from eviction
Dylan and Jo Murphy
The Barton Moss Community Protection Camp has been saved from eviction for now, following a recent court hearing. The Court of Appeal has given the protesters an opportunity to put forward their arguments against an eviction order granted by a Manchester High Court judge in February.
Meanwhile, daily protests continue against the exploratory drilling by IGas. Barton Moss has hit the headlines recently over the violent tactics used by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) against protesters. The violent assault upon Vanda Gillett last week has provoked a lot of criticism of GMP.
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett and Baroness Jenny Jones have written to Greater Manchester police commissioner Tony Lloyd to request a meeting to discuss the 'appalling' police tactics used at Barton Moss.
We joined the daily protest on Barton Moss Lane which tries to block the 20 strong convoy of trucks, carrying equipment and materials, from getting to the drilling site.
As usual the police formed lines and started to push us down Barton Moss Road. We were surrounded on all sides by a hundred police officers, and were filmed from all angles - never mind the riot squad of the Tactical Aid Unit (TAU) lurking close by.
What a huge waste of public money in this age of 'austerity' when public services are facing cut after cut. To add insult to injury the public are having to pay for the huge security operation designed to protect the operations of a private gas company.
The police kept telling us that we were preventing other members of the public from using Barton Moss Road! One protester, a pensioner who turned up in his dressing gown, was dragged away and arrested. He was taken to Swinton police station and charged with "aggravated trespass". The situation got quite tense as lots of people protested against this arrest and challenged the police over their aggressive pushing.
Police change stance
Suddenly the police lines backed off and we came to a stand still. We later learnt this was due to the arrival of a senior police officer commander. A quick change of tactics to a softly softly approach as a handful of police liaison officers escorted us very slowly towards the drilling site. Numerous protesters asked him why the police could not always steward the protest in this peaceful non-confrontational manner.
As we got to the entrance to the drilling site, which looks like a fortified military base, the police forced us to the side of the road while the convoy of huge trucks went in. Several trucks had labels on them saying 'hazardous waste'. The public is kept in the dark as to what chemicals and radioactive materials are being used and how they are being used.
The numerous arrests and routine use of violence by the police has totally failed to stop the protests. Indeed, it has had the opposite effect, with growing numbers of local residents joining forces with dedicated 'earth protectors'. The daily protests are slowing down the drilling.
The coalition government announced in December that 60% of the UK is now 'available' to be licensed for fracking. Oil and gas companies are poised to invest hundreds of millions of pounds into this get-rich-quick form of energy extraction. To extract the amounts of oil and gas the companies are bragging about will require tens of thousands of wells. This will lead to the poisoning of large areas of countryside.
Across Britain opposition to fracking is mushrooming with over 100 local protest groups formed at the latest count. This number will rapidly increase as the oil and gas companies expand their operations. The labour and trade union movement must urgently use some of its campaigning energies and resources against this threat.