The People Take on Fracking Corporation in UK-Wide Actions
Balcombe fracking protests spread nationwide as demonstrators shut down corporate headquarters, PR firm and drilling site
In a rapid-fire succession of civil disobedience actions across the United Kingdom, anti-fracking protesters came out in force Monday against drilling company Cuadrilla, shutting down their headquarters, their PR company and their drill site in Balcombe.
In an effort to suspend the "sustained campaign of corporate misinformation" being peddled by Bell Pottinger, beginning at 8 AM local time, six activists using superglue and reinforced arm tubes blocked the entrance company headquarters in London. Bell Pottinger is the PR company behind Cuadrilla's operation in Sussex where fracking already occurs.
Reporting on the action, the group No Dash for Gas writes:
Another activist climbed the building and unfurled a banner reading: ‘BELL POTTINGER – FRACKING LIARS’. The campaigners used a sound system to play an undercover recording in which a Bell Pottinger spin doctor admits the company’s pro-fracking PR offensive ‘sounds like utter fucking bullshit.’
By 9 AM, 20 activists in Lichfield—two hours north of London—shut down Cuadrilla's headquarters by blockading it with their bodies. According to No Dash for Gas, three people entered the building and successfully occupied 8 work stations using D-locks forcing the company to clear the entire floor of staff.
“We need to reclaim our energy system from the hands of corporations that will frack our countryside, crash our climate targets and send fuel bills through the roof,” declared protester Debby Petersen.
And in Balcombe, where Cuadrilla's test drilling site set off the nationwide protests, hundreds of protesters faced off with police as they locked arms around five activists who blocked the main gates by securing themselves with D-locks and superglue to a wheelchair. A larger group of activists reportedly blocked the surrounding road.
Meanwhile, No Dash for Gas reports, a double-decker bus with children from the camp toured the area with the slogan “Don’t frack with our future” emblazoned on the side of the vehicle.
Elsewhere, activists placed a wind turbine blade on the roof of the constituency office of Balcombe MP and Cabinet member Francis Maude, who was targeted for his pro-fracking views.
Reports of aggressive police tactics being used at the Balcombe protest have already drawn criticism and a formally filed complaint after a video surfaced of officers arresting a peaceful protester by "kneeling on his head and pushing his face into the ground as other officers restrain him." Other police had reportedly charged, pushed and shoved protesters and forced "one protester’s head down with a bicycle wheel."
BBC had this video of the police violence in Balcombe:
Among the six demonstrators arrested by the Balcombe gates was Green Party MP, Dr. Caroline Lucas, who—along with her son—was forcibly removed from outside the test drilling site where she sat with her arms linked with other protesters.
"I'm proud of the people around me who have put their bodies where the police are," Lucas said. "They have tried to use the democratic processes, tried to raise the issue through those democratic panels. The government isn't listening. Climate change is the greatest threat that we face and I think that people are right to try and take action against fracking."
The actions follow three weeks of protests by the people of Balcombe against test drilling in the area which, protesters say, could lead to fracking to extract shale gas.
As others have taken up the local fight, a growing 'climate camp' in Balcombe housed and fed roughly 800 people over the weekend as they prepared for their multi-front battle against Cuadrilla and the gas drilling industry.
Reclaim the Power posted a number of images on their Flickr page from Monday's demonstrations.
Continued coverage of the day's actions can be found on Twitter: