"Since I arrived at Barton Moss, Greater Manchester Police have behaved like aggressive thugs and bullies" Sasha
A war of words has broken out between Greater Manchester Police and anti-fracking campaigners following live images beamed around the world this week of police brutality against a disabled Barton Moss protector who was left with multiple injuries (see previous Salford Star article – click here).
Last night, Frack Free Greater Manchester and the Barton Moss Protection Camp issued a statement accusing Greater Manchester Police of being 'out of control'…
The statement reads…
`A legal observer filmed his own violent arrest, he can be heard asking questions about the legitimacy of a licence plate before being accused of obstructing a police officer and tackled to the ground. Sean O'Donnell, who was live-streaming the incident, can be heard questioning why he is being arrested before he begins to scream in pain, the camera goes blank as he drops it to the ground and then picks up on his bloodied face.
Sarah Carmichael of Frack Free Greater Manchester said: "I just hope that Sean is alright, a few people tried to visit him in the hospital but the police would not let them. This is not the first incidence of police violence we have seen at Barton Moss, there have been many occasions that I thought more people might get injured.
"The police have been aggressive to anybody who walks down with the trucks. They shout and scream in peoples ears and we have seen an 82 year old woman forcibly removed from the protest on numerous occasions, they even threw another disabled man down a hill so they could snatch arrest a pregnant woman.
"I have witnessed them arrest people for no reason at all. Before IGas arrived here I always believed we could trust our police but Greater Manchester Police are absolutely out of control."
Sasha Conway who lives at the camp said: "Since I arrived at Barton Moss, Greater Manchester Police have behaved like aggressive thugs and bullies. If they are not pushing elderly and disabled people down the road they are raiding the camp stating that a flare has been fired at their helicopter but are refusing to provide any proof other than fictional comments made on a website where users are not asked to register.
"I have been on other protests and witnessed similar behaviour from the police before but many of the local residents who visit are really shocked. They cannot believe that the police force could be so heavy handed and act as if they are above the law."
Frack Free Greater Manchester and many people who have protested at the site are now in talks with Farleys Solicitors to pursue legal action against Greater Manchester Police on a number of counts.'
This morning, Greater Manchester Police hit back with its own statement from Chief Superintendent Mark Roberts…
"At the start of this protest the majority of protesters were peaceful and law abiding but over the past couple of weeks local residents and officers have seen a distinct change to this. It now seems that the majority of people who are arriving at the site are not there to protest against fracking but are there to disrupt and intimidate the local community and to antagonise police. We have seen offences of assaults, damage, harassment of residents and workers, a flare fired at the police helicopter and threats to kill.
"I attended a residents' meeting last week and people there were close to tears and have had enough of this daily disruption to their lives. Locals, who initially supported the protesters, out walking their dogs and driving down Barton Moss Road have been approached by protesters in balaclavas and have been questioned by them which has been extremely intimidating. We have seen a huge increase in the calls to police from that area and this is continuing.
"Officers are verbally abused on a daily basis, one has even been spat at and another officer required stitches to his hand after trying to get a protester down from a fence. The police are there to do a job and that job is to facilitate peaceful protest and to balance the needs of all parties, the residents who live there, businesses who operate from there and the protesters themselves. It is not up to GMP who operates on this land and who has access to it – we are simply there to police it to ensure that everyone remains safe. We are increasingly seeing protesters trying to jump in front of HGVs or jump down from trees on top of moving lorries – it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured if they continue to act in a reckless manner.
"We are working very closely with many partner agencies to try and resolve this emerging threat and issue to try and reassure the local residents who feel intimidated in their own homes from people who have travelled from all parts of the country to set up camp in Barton Moss."
The number of arrests at the Barton Moss Community Protection site has risen to 82, and the GMP statement adds that "62 of these are from outside the Greater Manchester area, many from the South of England. Of these numerous have been previously arrested at either this or other protest sites".
As the war of words between GMP and the campaigners intensifies, supporters of the anti-fracking movement from Salford and all over the country are descending on Barton Moss this Sunday to show solidarity.
There will be a march from Salford City Stadium on Liverpool Road to the Barton Moss site on Barton Moss Road, meeting at 1pm. And Salford people from Irlam and Cadishead are having their own march to the Stadium, meeting at 12:30pm at the Tiger Moth pub.
Update: 24th January
Barton Moss camp responds to Greater Manchester Police Smears - click here