"`Is the Government and the police protecting the interests of big corporations here? Who is protecting the environment? Who is protecting local communities?' That's questions people will want to ask…" Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth (FOE) Director of Policy and Campaigns.
The Barton Moss Community Protection Camp today welcomed a delegation of four directors from Friends of the Earth (FOE) representing all corners of the British Isles – England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland.
"The intention of those who are promoting fracking is to make it happen right across our islands, not just across the UK but in Ireland as well" explained Andy Atkins, Executive Director of FOE England, Wales and Northern Ireland
"Obviously we are very much against fracking, it's bad for the environment, for climate change, very bad for water and for a range of other things, and we are here to express support for those protesting here and to see what's going on."
Early this morning, officers from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) had made sure lorries delivering to the iGas exploratory drilling site had driven up Barton Moss Road in record time, rushing those who slow march the vehicles up the public footpath, and arresting one person en route.
As a response, when the lorries were trying to exit the site, two protectors blocked the road with a full tube lock-on (featuring terracotta pot, chicken wire, expandable foam and two plastic drain pipes) which took the GMP Protester Removal Team well over an hour to free and arrest them.
In what seemed like retaliation, once the road was cleared, officers from GMP Tactical Aid Unit forced those walking in front of the lorries almost into a jog – pushing a photographer to the floor, shouting at elderly ladies and manhandling people out of the way. Fracking expert, Ian R Crane, was almost lifted off the floor and removed from police lines as he tried to film the chaos. Another man was pushed from the line and arrested.
Earlier, the visiting directors of Friends of the Earth had expressed concern about the policing…
"Our understanding is that it's got rougher and rougher and, certainly, we respect people's right to protest peacefully and we think the police should be handling them respectfully as they do that" said Andy Atkins "Stories are coming out of fairly rough handling…"
Craig Bennett, FOE Director of Policy and Campaigns England, Wales and Northern Ireland, also expressed his concern…
"`Is the Government and the police protecting the interests of big corporations here? Who is protecting the environment? Who is protecting local communities?' That's questions people will want to ask…It's about the priorities of the Government and, indeed, the police…"
On the visit, the FOE delegation heard from protectors first hand about the policing, the issues surrounding fracking in Salford and the local support groups that have appeared since the Camp was established in November.
"I'm expecting that we're going to see this sort of thing springing up in a number of places, everywhere where the gas industry tries to frack, because it is so noxious, so dangerous for the climate, so bad for the environment, that I think normal people will oppose it" said Andy Atkins.
"What is very, very clear is that we have already got enough fossil fuel reserves in the world to fry the planet several times over if we burn them all, and we do not need more" he added "What we first need is people investing in renewable energy, solar, wind, tidal and so on, and having a very big push on energy efficiency, using less of it because we waste so much energy at the minute.
"Our calculations, and those of many other institutions, academic organisations and governments, show this is perfectly possible" he concluded "There is no need, and it is indeed very dangerous to be exploring for more fossil fuels when we actually need to be burning much less."
Unfortunately, more and more, the debate about the virtues of sustainable energy and against the prospect of fracking is getting lost in the reality of `priority policing' at Barton Moss.
* Today, Los Angelese City Council banned fracking until further notice
Main lock-on photo by Steven Speed