Lorries trying to deliver supplies to the IGas exploratory drilling site in Barton Moss have been held up yet again this morning as three women blocked Barton Moss Road by attaching themselves to each other using steel arm tubes and vegetable oil drums filled with concrete.
The three-women `lock-on' is the latest in a series of imaginative protests aimed at holding up preparations on the site for testing out levels of coal bed methane and shale gas. The bigger the delay, the more it costs the drilling company IGas – to a point where campaigners hope it would be uneconomical to continue.
IGas was continuing to construct its drilling rig over the weekend on a site by the M62 which horrified local resident Sara Cooper of Irlam…
"Seeing that monstrous contraption go up, so close to the motorway, over the weekend, really brought home what they are going to do here" she said "We have to stop this, if it means putting ourselves in the way then that is what we will have to do. These women are so brave. I think they will inspire more people to stop this."
Police are currently trying to free the women and, apparently searching tents at the Barton Moss Community Protection Camp…
UPDATE: Monday January 6th 4pm
Police searching tents at the Barton Moss Camp claimed that they were looking for evidence after a flare was fired at the police helicopter. This is a claim hotly disputed by protectors at the Camp and spokespeople from Frack Free Greater Manchester…
"No flare was fired from this camp on Saturday or any other day" says Sacha Conway who is currently living at the camp "We would condemn any such action as aggressive, violent and in breach of our very strict safe spaces policy. We are peaceful people who wish to stop the destruction of this land by IGas and all of the other fracking companies."
"The only violence that we have seen has been conducted by Greater Manchester Police" he added "This is just an excuse to search our through our property and gather evidence."
"We refute this claim" says Rachel Thompson from Frack Free Greater Manchester "Greater Manchester Police have refused to show any evidence of this alleged incident. The behaviour of Greater Manchester Police has been outrageous throughout this whole campaign. In our eyes this is just another aggressive tactic aimed at isolating the camp from the community and to put them in a bad light.
'We have asked for a meeting with the Police Commissioner, Tony Lloyd to discuss the disgusting behaviour of his officers and have been refused" she adds "This matter is now with our lawyers but we wish to make it clear that we stand by Barton Moss Community Protection Camp and we call for an inquiry into this alleged incident."
Meanwhile police took several hours to free and remove the three women who locked themselves together in the road this morning, and there are reports of three more arrests during today's protests.
This morning Greater Manchester Police put out the following press release...
Police are currently executing a search warrant on Barton Moss Road following an incident in which a flare was fired at the police helicopter. At about 12.15am on Saturday 4 January 2014 a flare was fired directly into the approach path of the helicopter as it came into land at Barton airfield. The aircrew have confirmed that it appeared to come from the site of the nearby protest camp.
Chief Superintendent Mark Roberts said: "This is was an unbelievably stupid act of criminality which was extremely dangerous, not only for the police helicopter, but all other aircraft that use the nearby Barton airfields and the wider public.
"Had this flare caused an emergency situation it would not only have been catastrophic for the aircraft and its crew but potentially for numerous homes near the airfield, the M62 motorway and a children's residential facility.
"The protest camp appears to be a tight knit group who seem to be continually filming anything occurring on Barton Moss Road. If one of the protestors is responsible, I suspect their identity will be known to others and I would expect those reasonable members of the anti-fracking campaign to provide any information they have to the police.
"An attack on the police of this nature has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not exploratory drilling is right or wrong. Whilst I recognise the genuine concerns of many of the protesters in relation to exploratory drilling, it is obvious that there is also an element of regular protesters from outside the Greater Manchester area who seem more interested in seeking confrontation with the police.
"GMP continue to balance facilitating peaceful protest with the rights of others to go about their lawful business, whilst minimising disruption to the local community and businesses. Because of the way the camp is set up we have to systematically search the site under a warrant issued by a local court.
"We will attempt to facilitate this through dialogue with protesters but we have to take all reasonable steps to ensure there is no repeat of this action near to the airfield and that we identify those responsible. We have therefore had no option but to carry out this action.
"We are very grateful to the residents of nearby communities, who are well aware of the need for safety at the airfield, for their ongoing patience with regards to this matter."
See also previous article – Salford Solidarity Day 12th January and Salford Council Protest 15th January – click here
Photos courtesy of Frack Free Greater Manchester