"The poor girl was absolutely terrified, very upset…"
Yesterday afternoon, Saffron, a 15 year old schoolgirl from Cadishead, was arrested during the daily slow walk in front of lorries exiting the iGas exploratory drilling site at Barton Moss.
Eye witnesses and family told the Salford Star of their outrage at Greater Manchester Police actions, as officers were clearly warned that Saffron was a minor but was driven away in a police van without being accompanied by a responsible adult.
Saffron - researching a geography project on fracking and taking part in the walk for the first time - was arrested around 2pm and taken to Swinton Police Station where she was held until 8:15pm. During that time Saffron's mother was not allowed access to her daughter (because, police said, she was present at Barton), although her father did get to see her. Around two dozen people protested outside the police station until Saffron's release.
At Swinton Police Station, Saffron's mother was too distraught to talk to the Salford Star but her brother Kyle, who witnessed the arrest, said that the whole episode was "scary"…
"She was there learning the effects of fracking and she was in the line getting pushed along while telling the police officers to stop" he recalled "The police officer reached out for her whilst everyone was trying to pull her away from him. He did let go at one point and said he was just going to put her in the back of the van, search her and then release her. But after doing that they closed the doors and drove off to the layby [at the bottom of Barton Moss Lane]. Everyone walked to the van and it drove off.
"Her parents weren't aware that she'd even been arrested at this time which I don't think is very fair treatment of a 15 year old girl" he explained "I just think it's the police being aggressive more than anything. They wouldn't tell me what they were arresting her for and they wouldn't tell me where they were taking her. It's scary when it's the first time you've been on the walk and get arrested for `walking'."
Kyle's girlfriend, Kaylea Talbot, was also with Saffron while she was being arrested…
"I could hear her shouting `Stop pushing me' and then they basically took her to the side of the road saying `You're being arrested for aggravated trespassing'" she said "At that point everyone tried to grab her hand and tried to pull her away but we had to let go. Me and Elaine [step grandmother] went to the van but they wouldn't let an adult go with her so she wouldn't feel scared. She was just on her own crying her eyes out."
Family friend, Ian Tushingham, who was also present, said the police targeted the 15 year old…
"Young Saffron's only six stone wet through, and she's got pushed back, jostled and got herself caught up in the police arms, not being able to move backwards or forwards" he explained "I kept checking to make sure she was all right and she said she was ok but I could see the police homing in on her. When I saw this happening I grabbed hold of her and physically pulled her out of the line but the police officer signalled to two other PCs to snatch the young girl.
"I certainly didn't see any offence" he added "This was a young girl doing her school project on the pros and cons of fracking, trying to get a well judged view by coming and getting information first hand - and was bullied and harangued by police" he added "It was shocking and very, very shameful what the GMP have done today."
Back at Barton Moss Community Protection Camp, there was more outrage at the Greater Manchester Police actions, which came after BBC cameras - filming the morning demonstration as the guests of the police - had left the scene.
"A lot of the mothers, like myself, were crying because we all have children and realised she was only 15" said a Barton Moss mum "There was no-one with her, yet they knew she was underage because everyone told them. The poor girl was absolutely terrified, very upset…"
Others said that Saffron was targeted on the morning walk too when campaigners tried to make a citizen's arrest of the police officer responsible – footage that was shown on the BBC…
"I was behind the police lines, the inspector had a megaphone in his hands and he was pushing its microphone into her back" said Triky "He was jabbing her in the back, assaulting her, that's why we made the citizen's arrest."
For others at the Camp, who have witnessed a pregnant woman being arrested, a disabled man being shoved into a ditch, a cameraman having his eye socket fractured, elderly ladies being manhandled and more, it was police business as usual…
"It was the same as always" said Nigel "The police walk people down the road and say `Please don't push' or `Continue moving', just so they can say `Oh I warned them', even though the person wasn't doing anything…And then they grab them. They do it every time. The police were more concerned with taking her to the station than making sure she had an appropriate adult with her. They didn't prioritise her welfare."
* Greater Manchester Police told the Salford Star this morning that Saffron has been charged with `Obstructing and/or Disrupting A Person Engaged in Lawful Activity' and, because she has been charged, could not make any further comment.
As well as Saffron there were two other arrests at Barton Moss yesterday - one for `Aggravated Trespass' and one for a `Section 4 Public Offence'
See YouTube footage of the arrest - click here
See YouTube footage of Saffron allegedly being assaulted by a police inspector on the morning walk (around 7mins in), plus an attempted citizen's arrest on him, plus the BBC leaving the scene in a police car - click here
See YouTube footage of before and after Saffron's arrest - click here
See YouTube footage of Saffron re-united with her parents at Swinton Police Station - click here
Photos by Steven Speed