UK community stages protest camp to build opposition to fracking - 2013-14

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Timing
Time Period:  
27 November
2013
to
12 April
2014
Location and Goals
Country: 
United Kingdom
Location City/State/Province: 
Eccles, Manchester
Location Description: 
Rural England
Goals: 
The goal was to build opposition to fracking.
 

By 2013, pressure to use hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to release methane (natural gas) from shale rock formations in the UK began to grow. Prime Minister David Cameron endorsed pursuing this method of extracting natural gas. The government began issuing permits to companies to do test drilling across the UK, in spite of growing opposition from local communities. This campaign was one of the early campaigns to build community opposition with the long range goal of preventing fracking across the country. It aimed to discourage the mining companies doing the work by creating a growing degree of opposition to fracking in the local community and a growing willingness to obstruct the progress of the work and raise the costs of doing business. The umbrella coalition, Frack Free Manchester supported the local campaign, the Northern Gas Gala.
On 27 November 2013, the campaign began by establishing the ‘Barton Moss Community Protection Camp’ in a rural area near Eccles in the northwest of England, near Manchester, a major city. People brought tents and began camping beside the road near the test drill site. Their primary method of action was nonviolent intervention. They tried to prevent or delay the traffic into and out of the testing site. The company needed to bring in and assemble the drilling equipment in order to do the testing necessary to determine whether the location had a profitable supply of natural gas available for the fracking technique. The campaigners, or ‘protectors’, would block the trucks if possible, or walk in front of the trucks very slowly to delay them if forced to keep moving by the police. That day, four people were arrested for this delaying tactic.
The campaigners held a press conference on December 3rd, calling for transparency about the process of having permits approved and publicizing the dangers of fracking for air and water.
Police forced the way for trucks and all kinds of vehicles to enter and leave the site, with as many as 150 police at a time. The police routinely used repressive violence in clearing the roadways and arresting people.
Local community protesters held a public demonstration with placards and banners on 8 December, including drumming and chanting. They followed up on the 13th with more slow ‘escorting’ of trucks by the protectors resulting in arrests. Police pushed one disabled protester off the road resulting in a broken knee.
16 December, 50 pro-renewable energy campaigners, dressed as” Santa’s” helpers, delivered and assembled a 17 meter, 1.5 ton wind turbine blade, blocking the entry site. They called this a ‘Christmas gift’ for the fracking company. “Santa” didn’t want to give them coal in their stockings, the traditional punishment for bad children, because they would just burn it.” Two days later, protesters left a large bus disabled blocking the entrance to the site with five protectors locked to various parts of the bus causing a six hour delay of traffic. On 30 December, a protester locked himself to the first truck in a convoy, holding up the whole line, while others occupied the road to add to the delays.
On 2 January, a woman superglued herself to the gates, followed by a slow walking escort blocking the trucks. Police made three arrests. They were very aggressive and heavy-handed according to the campaigners. On 6 January, three women attached themselves to barrels full of concrete and blocked the road for four hours, resulting in five arrests. Police accused campers of firing a flare at a police helicopter. No evidence was presented. The next day, two people blocked the trucks by supergluing themselves into a car in the pathway to the gates.

Throughout January, the campaigners used many more delay tactics and police arrested them on many occasions. Police continued to use violence, and some campaigners were hurt. On 12 January, hundreds of protesters marched to support the encampment, with banners and signs. On 19 January, members of Faslane Peace Camp, a group with years of experience with direct action campaigns, trained local Barton Moss Protectors in direct action. On 26 January, 1500 people from across the Country marched and held a rally with speeches and songs to support the camp. On 31 January, five campaigners locked themselves to a permanent fixture in the reception area of the Salford Council’s Civic Centre. They were protesting what the protesters called the attempts to bribe the council with community payments for allowing fracking in their cities.

Throughout February, the protestors continued to use delay tactics and police continued arrests, sometimes violently. On 6 February, Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party visited the camp to talk with protesters. On 18 February, Land-owners threatened to charge the protesters camping at the site with trespassing and did later charge them, but it never came to trial. On 23 February, the campaign held a rally with 250 people that included music, and people made speeches.

In March, activists employed more delay tactics, and police continued to respond with violence. Bez, a musician from the band Happy Mondays, joined protesters and spoke out against the police violence. On 30 March, Igas, the energy company, dismantled the drilling rig as the test drilling was completed. A press release by Barton Moss Community Protection camp claimed victory in moving public opinion against fracking.

On 11 April 2014, the anti-fracking protest camp ended with a party and cleaning up the site.

The campaign was successful in increasing the opposition to fracking. The delays made the testing process take a month longer, and allowed for four months of visibility and public attention on fracking and why the group was opposing it. Polls showed that public opinion went from 34% against fracking in December of 2013 to 73% against it in March of 2014 in Northwest England. The company, Igas, lost a significant percentage of its stock price as the active protest intensified in 2014. The campaign achieved its goal of turning public opinion. It survived and grew through the campaign. Frack Free Manchester, and the local community resolved to resume the ‘battle’ if Igas came back to begin fracking.

Research Notes
Influences: 

This campaign was influenced by the example of a similar encampment at Balcombe during July and August of 2013 against a fracking test site. (1)

Sources: 
http://web.archive.org/web/20150227112721/http://frackfreegtrmanchester.org.uk/

http://web.archive.org/web/20150227113010/http://northerngasgala.org.uk/page/14/

http://web.archive.org/web/20150226220437/http://frackfreegtrmanchester.org.uk/press-release-igas-told-if-you-return-well-be-back-here-as-rig-is-taken-down-at-barton-moss/

http://web.archive.org/web/20150226215647/http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-25157239

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/three-quarters-mancunians-oppose-fracking-6778067 http://web.archive.org/web/20150226220228/http://www.lse.co.uk/ShareChart.asp?sharechart=IGAS

http://web.archive.org/web/20150227083657/http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/anti-fracking-protests-number-arrests-reaches-6643876

http://web.archive.org/web/20150227074105/http://www.salfordstar.com/article.asp?id=2121

http://web.archive.org/web/20150227075330/http://www.salfordstar.com/article.asp?id=2126

http://web.archive.org/web/20150227084817/http://www.salfordstar.com/article.asp?id=2196

http://web.archive.org/web/20150227085942/http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2284869/police_attack_barton_moss_antifracking_protestors.html

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Jamie Irwin, 26/02/2015