Star date: 6th February 2014


Greater Manchester Police's handling of the anti-fracking campaign at Barton Moss has been likened to the political policing of the 1980s Miners Strike by solicitor Simon Pook who is representing 98% of those who have been arrested.

As the campaign Justice4BartonMoss gets launched with a public meeting in Eccles tonight, Simon Pook added "The Human Rights Convention seems to have been discarded in favour of… pushing through the fracking industry's agenda." Yet both the Salford City Mayor and Police Commissioner have remained silent throughout…

Full details here…

"The last time I saw this sort of behaviour was in the Miners Strike of the 1980s where we saw identical police tactics being used, pushing at miners, brutalising peaceful protest…I am very, very concerned…" Simon Pook

The IGas exploratory drilling site for coal bed methane and shale gas at Barton Moss is the UK's front line for the battle against fracking. And the Barton Moss Community Protection Camp has been established since last November to not only draw attention to the issues surrounding the controversial process, but also to peacefully protest against it.

The protectors have tried, and succeeded, in physically delaying lorries going to and from the site, using peaceful direct action – which has ranged from locking on to vehicles, to slowly walking the lorries down the public footpath leading up to the site, as is their right.

The only physical hurt the protectors have inflicted on anyone is upon their own bodies, superglue-ing themselves to the IGas entrance gates, attaching themselves to concrete filled drums and basically living outdoors at the Camp during one of the most storm-swept winters on record. For the protectors, the suffering is minimal compared to the suffering of the community and the environment if fracking goes ahead.

However, while the battle over the concept of fracking rages at Barton Moss, unfortunately the treatment of the anti-fracking campaigners by Greater Manchester Police has become just as big a story. The Salford Star has documented numerous arrests by the police at the site and associated allegations of brutality by the Greater Manchester Police riot police, or Tactical Aid Unit (TAU).

Now Simon Pook, of Robert Lizar Solicitors, who is representing 98% of those arrested at Barton Moss, compares the political policing at Barton Moss to that of the Miners Strike of the 1980s

"The last time I saw this sort of behaviour was in the Miners Strike of the 1980s where we saw identical police tactics being used, pushing at miners, brutalising peaceful protest" he says "I am very, very concerned at the tactics used at Barton Moss.

"I go down there to see my clients and it's my view that these are peaceful protesters" he adds "The videos on YouTube show them going about their business but during the time when they are walking the lorries up Barton Moss Road the only aggression I see in those videos comes from the Tactical Aid Unit of Greater Manchester Police."

Simon Pook draws a distinction between the police officers who attend Barton Moss and the Tactical Aid Unit which takes over the policing…

"What I would term the `community bobby' is the police officers with the helmets and the WPCs who are facilitating the march - but for some reason they are taken off the front line of bringing lorries in and are replaced with the Tactical Aid Unit" he explains "All of a sudden the tactics change. They become very aggressive, they are pushing people, they are kicking people, they are pushing people out of the way, they are manoeuvring old ladies off the walk up the road. So there is a difference between the community policing and the Tactical Aid Unit.

"I've looked at video footage provided to me from the protest dates from 26th November through to 30th January and am very concerned about the level of brutality and tactics used by Greater Manchester Police, mainly the Tactical Aid Unit" he adds "They are kicking protectors in the lower legs; the front and rear of the legs depending on which way they are standing; they are standing on their feet and threatening to arrest them for obstruction of the highway before standing on their feet again

"I've also witnessed an elderly gentleman pushed into a ditch, and the actions of the officer are very similar to that of the officer who pushed Mr Tomlinson [died after being assaulted at G20 protest] in London. I've viewed the footage provided by Kris and again it raises very serious concerns on the actions of the TAU at Barton Moss."

Kris suffered a broken eye socket and multiple injuries as he continued to film during his arrest last month (see here)…

"He's lodging a complaint, and I've also lodged a complaint because when I did attend the hospital to attempt to see my client an officer pushed me in the chest and told me to `Fuck off'" he recalls "The conduct of the officers is coming close to what I would term political policing where the European Human Rights Convention seems to have been discarded in favour of a political preference, which is to push through the fracking industry's agenda."

Meanwhile, Greater Manchester Police has put out a press release which has horrified the protectors, and anyone who has been up to the Barton Moss Camp. The GMP stated: "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..."

…To which the Barton Moss Camp and Frack Free Greater Manchester responded; "The smear campaign and intimidation of the camp has now heightened to levels that many thought was not possible" (see here).

Simon Pook is equally horrified by the GMP media tactics, including the much repeated figure of over one hundred arrests
"What the police are putting into the public domain does feed into the political agenda and this is why I'm drawing the view that this is political policing" he says "The police seem to be far more interested in a PR campaign to justify their actions than in presenting true and real issues.

"The number of arrests is incredibly misleading because the police failed to say that they are visiting the site and arresting people for breach of bail which appears to give inflated arrest rates and gives the perception of a high degree of criminality, which simply isn't the case" he adds "The police also have a dossier of images of the protectors.

"I have seen this dossier and I've also seen videos on YouTube of inspectors selecting people for arrest" he explains "There was a particular day when five people were selected for arrest. They all happened to be from out of town and a few days later GMP released one of their statements saying the majority were from out of town. The GMP should tell us why they have a dossier of photographs of people and why they are selecting people for arrest which then appear to be for ulterior motives rather than justice.

"I have asked GMP to make sure that my images do not end up in that dossier because anyone who the police take details of, they are terming them to be a protester and I'm actually at the site as a solicitor seeing my clients and being a legal observer."

Indeed, Greater Manchester Police `evidence gatherers' have been taking photos of the Salford Star reporter and photographer, both at the Camp and at Salford Civic Centre last week when we were covering a direct action by protectors. Salford Star has since written to the GMP asking for an explanation and has received no response (see here).

What is incredible is that, with evidence mounting of Greater Manchester Police brutality and `political policing', not a word has been uttered on the subject by either the Greater Manchester Police Commissioner Tony Lloyd, who is based in Salford, or by the Salford City Mayor Ian Stewart, who actually lives in Irlam near the Camp, nor by any Labour councillor at Salford Council.

The only squeak of protest has come from Worsley and Eccles South MP Barbara Keeley, who raised initial questions in the House of Commons about the cost of the police operation and police overkill.

One would assume that these politicians would have plenty to say about the policing of the 1980s Miners Strike which is being compared to Barton Moss by solicitor Simon Pook...

"I think it terms of Mr Lloyd, his silence speaks for itself" he says "I would invite him to make a comment in terms of the police conduct. I would invite him to view the YouTube footage of the Greater Manchester Police Tactical Aid Unit. I would invite him to look at the video of Kris and other arrests, and perhaps give us a public view on it. I think he'll say `I can't possibly speak because the matter is under investigation'."

And Salford Mayor Ian Stewart? "I think the civil dignitaries at Salford have a duty to come out and tell the people of Irlam and Cadishead and those who live around Barton Moss why the police are behaving in this way, they have a public duty to do that" he explains "I'd invite them to look at the videos and give us a view. They should visit the site, get their own experience, talk to the people at the Camp – the community are doing it every day. They should go down and see it for themselves."

Tony Lloyd is asking for people to pay £5 extra on their Council Tax bills to go towards the police, which would include the enormous cost of policing Barton Moss. So how would Simon Pook feel as a resident?

"I'd feel extremely aggrieved" he says "We have between twelve and 18 protectors being policed by ninety plus police officers and numerous vans, numerous evidence gatherers and police liaison officers – yet we have community events with over 1000 people attending and only one police officer."

It's not just residents who might be aggrieved. Magistrates and judges, it seems, are also unhappy with the oppressive bail conditions being requested for those arrested by the police and the amount of strange arrests the police are subsequently making in relation to bail conditions.

"The police are not just trying to get people bailed on condition they don't return to the site but are now extending it to within half a mile of the site" says Simon Pook "The courts have, in my view correctly, said that these bail conditions are unlawful and are not compatible with the European Convention of Human Rights. It denies the protectors the right to freedom of protest, they are just saying `No' and giving unconditional bail, allowing people to return to the camp. The courts have been very clear to the clients we represent that the conditions being put by the police are disproportionate. 

"I have seen video of a Tactical Aid Unit police officer being asked `Did you drag them out of the tents?' and the officer says `Yes I did'. And the purpose of that was that they could get them on the road to arrest them for breach of bail. There were six arrested recently on that basis. We've presented the evidence before the courts using the police's own photographs and the courts have drawn the view that the tents are in the farmer's field and therefore the protectors are not committing a breach of bail.

"I wish somebody in the Crown Prosecution Service would speak to the officer leading the Operation Geraldton, as it's called, and say `Look, not one of these breach of bails has been upheld, please instruct your officers not to waste public money, not to bring people before the courts and if they are in breach of bail to have the correct evidence before them'. The courts are very clear that there is no breach of bail and it must stop."

Again, the re-arrests seem to be a political move by the police…

"In my view, the arrest figures are artificially inflated by making arrests that they know will be dismissed by the court the following day" Simon Pook explains "The district judge was extremely unhappy with the Crown Prosecution Service and the police because of these alleged breaches of bail and he made his points known."

On February 12th loads of cases are due to be heard in the courts surrounding arrests that have been made at Barton Moss…

"If we win then everyone who has been arrested for obstructing the highway and possibly for obstructing a police officer will have the charges withdrawn" says Simon "And from that there may well be a substantial civil action against Greater Manchester Police."

In the meantime, the Justice4BartonMoss campaign is being launched tonight, Thursday 6th February, with a Public Meeting at St Michael's Social Club, Liverpool Road, Eccles M30 7LP beginning at 7pm (see Facebook event page - click here).

Organisers state that "This meeting has been called to formally launch the Justice4BartonMoss campaign, established in response to aggressive, intimidating and violent policing by Greater Manchester Police towards anti-fracking campaigners at Barton Moss. So far, 100 campaigners have been arrested and many others have been injured as a result of police actions.

The campaign is supported by the Northern Police Monitoring Project and we invite all those affected and concerned to come together and discuss how we can respond to the ongoing intimidation and criminalisation of anti-fracking campaigners at Barton Moss."

There is also a petition demanding a Public Inquiry into the policing at Barton Moss which the Salford Star is backing (see previous article here)

at 12:06:41 on 11 February 2014
peaceful demonstration is SO GOOD....AND THAT RIGHT HAS TO BE PROTECTED...it is good to hear that the police force is shown to be out of order..otherwise what would happen in the rest of the country if they had total power over the people...people are the main power and those who are conscious and really aware of what is going on...need to be able to act independently of other forces....who do not always understand themselves what is really going on.
Valerie Rawlinson wrote
at 06:27:51 on 08 February 2014
I have been at Barton Moss on several occasions been pushed and something shoved in my back by GMP. They also tried to trip me up so they could pull me out of the protestors. I am 72 years old. I have a contact line with Tony Lloyd and got a message to him saying I was too frightened to walk in front of the lorries again and was afraid that the right to protest is being prevented by police brutality. He responded by saying 'he was very concerned'! I have nothing but praise for the protectors who keep calm when being harrassed by GMP. They are wonderful, brave people and I for one am grateful to them. The people of Manchester and Salford will never be able to repay them for what they have done.
The Realist wrote
at 07:39:05 on 07 February 2014
@The Fat End of The Wedge, everything you have said is absolutely correct. What the people on the moss need to understand about how Salford and Manchester work is, 1) Tup north councils do what they want, regardless of local or national opinion. 2) The police enforce the law and do not show favour to anyone. Whilst I am not in favour of fracking these protests will do nothing to change the minds of the ignorant bastards that run this now shity city, the only way do deal with them is to vote them out, rock the boat enough in May and the rest will wake up.
Scott wrote
at 05:14:41 on 07 February 2014
A few years ago we had a Inspector speaking to me and in the conversation he said " We don not understand why the people of Salford hate the police" its obvious look at the antics on the Moss
Paul wrote
at 21:31:49 on 06 February 2014
Chaz 12:08 From my research I believe many of the judiciary are bent!
The Fat End of The Wedge wrote
at 21:31:40 on 06 February 2014
Interesting to compare to the miners strike. In the miners strike the police were accused of brutality against people wanting to keep mines open, and here the brutality is supposedly directed at people who want to prevent the opening of mines. Unfortunately these causes get hijacked by other interests - the police end up in the middle following orders. They are just as likely to be sent to harass BNP members in their homes when arresting them for 'ulterior motives' - plenty of video evidence online for that as well - but then that's OK isn't it? My personal position is that I am against 'fracking', but I feel the videos show that the protestors are guilty of winding up the police to create these situations - which is ultimately distracting coverage of the real issues.
jacqueline butterworth wrote
at 20:01:50 on 06 February 2014
I am female aged 72 yrs and cannot believe the actions of the police.Heads should roll re this kind of thuggery
Dan wrote
at 20:01:46 on 06 February 2014
It's simply untrue to say that Tony Lloyd has said nothing on this! I heard him talking about it on the radio the other week!! Have you asked him? Thought not! Don't let the truth get in the way of the truth, eh?
Jimmy Shin wrote
at 18:11:30 on 06 February 2014
I wonder... http://tinyurl.com/pbsdb4g
Chaz wrote
at 18:08:55 on 06 February 2014
WHAT A BRILLIANT ARTICLE (AGAIN) BY THE STAR!!!!! So much respect to you and to Simon Pook, a true hero of the times. WE ALL HAVE TO BE VERY VERY WORRIED!!!! Thank god that we don't have a bent judiciary otherwise we would quite literally be in a Police State. If the judiciary were to back the corrupt GMP we would ALL be in serious trouble and this is exactly why we have to get off our arses and get this stopped right now. We need a full public inquiry to establish exactly who these corrupted officers are and bring them to account because if we just sit around and let this slide we are facing a very dark future. Please everybody, do what you can to promote the inquiry petition and back the Justice4Barton Moss campaign. This has gone way beyond fracking now. Its become a threat to the basic rights that our forefathers fought and died to preserve and if we just let it slide we are taking a massive dump upon their sacrifices.
Julia Gleave wrote
at 18:08:18 on 06 February 2014
Well done to this newspaper for covering the issue:- regardless of whether you support fracking or not, the bigger issue here is the most basic one that underpins everything about British society - the right to freedom of expression and the right to peacefully protest against things you dont agree with. Why have the big news channels and papers not taken this story up yet? Its a big one. I am an advocate of freedom of the press on the basis that they shine a light on things that need coverage and exposure, even if it means they are a little too intrusive in other areas relating to privacy. Come on national media - justify your right to remain free of regulation please! This needs reporting on..
Pamela Jevon wrote
at 16:42:00 on 06 February 2014
Great article, credit to Salford Star and S Pook! I was moved to go to the camp last Friday and felt totally intimidated by the GMP, cameras and video cameras in my face, being shoved by Police from behind and threatened with arrest twice. I have never witnessed anything like it and believe I was in shock for the next couple of days. Where are our MP's , K Green mentions nothing of Barton Moss in her weekly email again this week? I live locally and have nothing but praise for our Protector heroes at Barton Moss
alan davies wrote
at 16:41:42 on 06 February 2014
I emailed the mayor of salford and some councillors re this matter all i got was one response that was in my view far from satisfactory,nowt from the mayor so far..
Dee Wood wrote
at 14:51:33 on 06 February 2014
Good to see a measured and clear piece of reporting. The behaviour of the police has been not only disgraceful but just plain stupid. Glad to see at least one part of the media standing up and telling the truth.
Chris Taverner wrote
at 14:51:29 on 06 February 2014
Unusual to see a journalist going that extra mile to get the full story in this way. Very glad that you have done so... and this article will help to illuminate the rest of the country as to the tactics being employed against simple protesters. Well Played.
Andrew Filson wrote
at 14:51:25 on 06 February 2014
Well done on a real article done honestly. Unlike the police, government& all the major newspapers. All the policemen should be brought to book on the outrageous behaviour & blatently unlawful way they are dealing with those who wish to peacefully protect the country from the oil & gas companies. Follow the monet trail & I think you will find it leads directly to private interests within the Tory party!
James Larkin wrote
at 11:14:24 on 06 February 2014
Well done to both the Salford Star and to Simon Pook for bringing the issues into the public domain. I have noticed over the last few weeks the increasing accounts and video images of the police conduct at Barton Moss. It is worrying that the crime commissioner is silent on the issue.He would do well to remember that he is there by votes, and we will remember that he stood silent whilst officers under his watch beat, broke bones of the community. SHAME ON GMP, SHAME ON TONY LLOYD Stop ECOCIDE make a stand, join the folks at Barton Moss.
Linda Davies wrote
at 10:32:39 on 06 February 2014
As a person who has never been in trouble with the police I had a lot of time for Police and the job they have to do, but I find I am shocked, horrified at the treatment of Barton Moss Protectors. It has changed my outlook on the GMP. If they can treat peaceful people this way. I do not want to be policed by these people who seem to be basically for the most part thugs.
Sue Lees wrote
at 10:32:34 on 06 February 2014
Excellent factual article which hits the nail smack bang on the head. Well done.
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