And we’re off! It’s one week in to the Rolling Resistance, a month-long push to add our support to the amazing anti-fracking movement on the front line in Lancashire. And what a week!
The month of action kicked off last Saturday with a family-friendly launch event, with the Lancashire community that have been resisting Cuadrilla’s attempts to frack their home for several years welcoming visitors in typical style: with a brew, in tents adorned with the Lancashire rose.
Local residents, farmers, councillors and businesses took to the stage to explain why fracking threatens them and their livelihoods, and why they feel compelled to escalate their resistance to fracking.
It was a scramble to get the community hub ready at Maple Farm, just down the road from the Preston New Road side where Cuadrilla are trying to frack. But with all hands on deck, it’s now a beautiful community space to support resistance and welcome newcomers. The all-week rota was eagerly filled by a small army of voluntary chefs producing delicious food to support roadside resistance, as well as people keeping the campsite running and organising how to stop Cuadrilla every single day down at the gate.
Local people were front and centre of the first creative action on Monday, where 3 councillors and 10 local residents blockaded the Preston New Road site. The majority of the people locked on to heavy objects, blocking road access to the site, had never taken direct action before – yet now feel like it is their only option.
Committed to protecting their community, they managed the longest ever single blockade at the site, with Michelle lasting a mega 36 hours. This was a clear sign of how far ordinary people will go to stop fracking, and gained national news as well as lots of local coverage. The mood was buzzing.
But the next day, that hype was dented by a unprecedented use of force by Cuadrilla’s security team. As protestors were trying to get out of a car near the site, Cuadrilla’s site manager restrained one demonstrator in a headlock, who was then punched and pinned to the ground by security guards. Another demonstrator had his leg caught and trapped in a car door by the Site Manager, while multiple others were pushed into road and tackled to the floor by a team of more than 15 guards. This was a totally disproportionate, violent and unnecessary reaction to the ongoing peaceful protests at Preston New Road – and worse still, it was off private land and on a public highway.
This obviously shook people at the site. Thanks to an early morning lock-on from one of the protectors, the ongoing blockade by Michelle and two demonstrators despite the scuffle, the gate was blocked all day until 6pm. But the morning’s assault combined with the exhaustion of how much planning has gone into this month meant spirits really dropped.
However. We’re not a gloomy bunch by nature. Faced with a brutish fracking company trying to bully its way to destroy local areas and wreck our climate, we will not be cowed. We are also committed to resist this aggression, both by exposing this violence in the media and by pressing charges for the assault.
And what better way to resist than to not back down: just a day after being assaulted, the very same demonstrator was back the next day to lock on and block access to the gate, joined by another group highlighting the insanity of fracking so close to a nuclear processing site (just why?!).
While all of the protectors taking part are aware of the legal risks of non-violent direct action, we were caught unawares by getting stung with a parking ticket for the car that people were locked on to!
The next day we were back again with a postcard message for Cuadrilla inspired by nearby holiday resort Blackpool: wish you weren’t here. A special triumph for this group was managing to get in place to block the gate right under the nose of the police and security.
The final day of the week saw our first mass family-friendly public demonstration, where by our sheer numbers we’re enabling more people to stop fracking happening. With the focus on family fun, over 150 people turned up to party outside Cuadrilla’s gates, showing their resisdance moves
— Reclaim The Power (@reclaimthepower) July 7, 2017
By bringing together parents, councillors, renewable energy workers and young people, we’re showing the strength and diversity of people all across the country who are drawing a red line and saying “Not here, not anywhere” to the fracking industry.
It’s been an amazing week. Exhausting, exhilarating and deeply inspiring. For those of us new to the space, it’s been incredible to meet the local community and protectors working tirelessly. None of this would have been possible without their support.
Nevertheless, the mood here is very tense. We’re all on high alert waiting for the rig. Emotional stress is intense and draining people with tempers running high.
But I end the first week on a high, in hope that we can and will stop fracking together. The blockades every day this week, as well as the 24 hour presence outside the gate, have caused huge disruption for Cuadrilla and further dashed the chances of fracking companies across the UK. So roll on week 2 – and get involved!