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Villagers and Activists Unite in UK Fight Against Fracking

'We are facing a climate crisis, economic crisis and social crisis,' say campaigners

- Jon Queally, staff writer

800 people for supper on Saturday night and a Sunday of marching and direct action planning are all part of the workings at the growing 'climate camp' near the town of Balcombe in West Sussex, England.

Determined to halt fracking operations by gas drilling company Caudrilla, the protest movement against the controversial operations in this otherwise quiet village has taken on international implications and drawn the attention of a global audience.

"We are facing a climate crisis, economic crisis and social crisis," says the climate activist group No Dash for Gas, which has brought its spirit and resources to Balcombe in recent days to buttress the work done by local activists who in a series of protest action in recent weeks fought back against plans to drill test wells in the area.

Their Twitter feed and the hashtag #reclaimthepower were trending on Sunday during and after a march through the town:

"We want a clean and fair future where people come before profit," said the group in its open invitation for others to join their week of action, which began on Friday and runs through this week. "Come to share your ideas. Create, imagine, resist. Join us in Balcombe, West Sussex to Reclaim the Power!"

According to the BBC:

Camp organisers said about 600 people were at the site on Sunday afternoon, and the camp kitchen fed about 800 people on Saturday night.

Last week, Balcombe Parish Council issued an open letter warning the campaigners not to carry out illegal activity. The council said direct action was likely to include an attempt to enter the site.

Cuadrilla suspended drilling on Friday but said work would resume at the site as soon as it was safe.

On Friday, The BBC's John Moylan said the company had made the well safe, secured the site with a reinforced fence and gone into "lockdown mode".

And The Guardian reports:

Campaigners say drilling for oil by Cuadrilla in a nearby field could lead to fracking to extract shale gas. Reports suggesting that British Geological Survey is expected to announce the presence of hundreds of millions of barrels of shale oil beneath the Weald in the south-east of England have deepened the sense among protesters that they are in for a long fight.

Activist and engineer Dudi Tor, 25, who had travelled from Lancaster, said: "We have fought over oil for years and will fight over it until the end of time, until the oil runs out. If they try and take the oil, stay and fight." Referring to the victory in forcing Cuadrilla to postpone test drilling, Tor said it was a sign the site would be closed outright. This, he said, was partly due to the mixture of middle England and direct-action supporters the protest had attracted.

Liz Prince-Harding, 35, a psychology lecturer from Kent who was looking to move to West Sussex before becoming alarmed about fracking, said the mix of supporters would prove a potent, triumphant combination. "This is about the diversity of the people involved. You've got the middle class, who've never been involved with direct action, cheek by jowl with seasoned eco-warriors. We can win this simply because of the place they have chosen. This is Tory heartland. Balcombe is very middle-class; people here will not take this lying down."

Interviewed by the UK Independent, activist Graham Thompson said, "We're here to support the people of Balcombe who have been protesting against this for three weeks now – which is tough, camping by a roadside. They are the real heroes of this story; they've come here as a community and that's fantastic."

The Guardian adds:

Although Monday heralds the start of the direct action – and rumours persist of an attempt to invade the site – few predict trouble. Tensions, though, were evident on Saturday, with police "snatch squads" picking up at least one protester and driving him from the site.

Fourteen officers guard the main gate to the Cuadrilla site, although dozens more remain on standby. Up to 1,000 protesters are expected at the camp, which has become the centre of protests.

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