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Holding a banner that reads "Not for Shale," hundreds of anti-fracking protesters marched in Lancashire, England on Sunday. (Photo: No Dash for Gas)

'Not for Shale': UK Protesters Launch Widespread Actions Against Fracking

Targeting both industry and government, series of direct actions kicks off week-long anti-fracking camp in Blackpool, England

Lauren McCauley

Targeting everything from government offices and university research facilities to gas company headquarters and fracking sites, hundreds of concerned citizens across the United Kingdom on Monday unleashed a series of direct actions calling attention to the government-backed push to "frack the future" of the UK.

The coordinated demonstrations kicked off a six-day "Reclaim the Power" camp in Blackpool, England at which over 1000 people including a coalition of climate, social and economic activists are expected to join. During the event, participants will take part in protests as well hold workshops to "connect the dots" between various government and industry efforts to expand shale gas drilling in the UK and "challenge the undemocratic, unjust and unsustainable system" to implement more sustainable energy solutions instead.

In London, three activists superglued themselves to the main entrance of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to protest the government's attempt to keep the dangers of fracking hidden from the public. The activists specifically called for the complete release of a heavily-redacted government report on the impacts of fracking made public last week. 

During the demonstration, a fourth activist scaled the building's scaffolding and unfurled a banner which read:  “What’s to hide DEFRA? Don’t frack with our future.”

Protesters in London also blockaded the front entrance to the iGas headquarters, the drilling company whose exploratory wells in Barton Moss have been the target of numerous demonstrations against the government's "new wave" of drilling sites and gas-fired power stations.

On Sunday, anti-fracking advocates opened the Reclaim the Power camp with a march to show support for the people of Lancashire, who have been engaged in an ongoing fight against a proposed Cuadrilla drilling site in their county. According to the protesters, the drilling giant has made "persistent" overtures to buy its way into fracking the Lancashire countryside, despite widespread local resistance.

Activists on Monday occupied Cuadrilla's headquarters hoping to, finally, have their voices heard.

"Since arriving in our community, Cuadrilla has caused two earthquakes, failed two wells, been censured on seven points of ‘over-stating safety claims’ in community-information literature by the Advertising Standards Authority and at the very least, misled local business owners and residents about the true business of shale gas extraction and what it will mean to us," said David Martin, local resident and father of two.

"Right now," Martin continued, "Lancashire County Council is considering Cuadrilla’s planning application and we’d rather they were considering our strong community resistance. With more than 20 Lancashire groups opposing, 14,000 objection letters in and thousands more gathered ready to deliver, we need our concerns recognized and we need plans for fracking rejected.”

Also Monday, students and concerned residents from Swansea, Wales shut down construction of Swansea University's Bay Campus to protest the tens of millions of dollars of public funds being funneled into new fracking research. The new Swansea University campus is being built on land gifted by BP and, according to protesters, research at the university will be focused on long-term ‘strengths’ in petroleum and chemical processing—particularly fracking. BP will also be the university's primary collaborator on the research.

"The fossil fuel industry is unequivocally driving us towards a global climate crisis: we will not keep dangerous climate change at bay without halting our extraction of fossil-fuels," said Swansea University student Heather Corvid.

"Ironically the Bay Campus will end up under water if research they are doing means we frack our future,” Corvid added.

In another direct action, protesters blockaded a fracking site at Crawberry Hill in East Yorkshire in northeast England to call out the "reckless" safety breaches committed by drilling company Rathlin Energy. On Monday morning, three protesters locked themselves to the outside gate alongside a banner which read, "Rathlin Energy, Safety Fail," while others presented a failing safety report to the company. The demonstration was called to highlight the major operational and safety failures at Rathlin's nearby West Newton drilling site, which activists said endangered both the climate and the community.

According to reports, the protesters were met by security officers using  "extreme and brutal force."

Additional actions were reported throughout the day with updates on the No Dash for Gas website and Twitter feed.

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