Fracking protestors jailed by UK 'Banana Monarchy' judiciary
Although I’m the organiser of the anti-fracking Green Mondayprotests at Preston New Road, and am also the Membership Secretary of my local Green party, what follows is very much my own individual view, and must in no waybe taken as necessarily representing the opinion of any other individual involved in the Preston New Road, Lancashire, protests, or of any organisation.
The Frack Free Four - Richard Roberts, Simon Blevins, Rich Loizou and Julian Brock - had previously been found guilty of Public Nuisance because of their involvement in what (so far!) has been the UK’s longest anti-fracking protest in July 2017, during Reclaim The Power’s month of anti-fracking Rolling Resistance. The 4 protestors had climbed onto lorries delivering pipes to Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road - and had prevented the lorries from delivering those pipes for a total of 99 hours, 31 minutes:
Judge Altham handed out prison sentences of 16 months to Richard Roberts (who had stayed on his lorry for a staggering 84 hours, 19 minutes!) and to Simon Blevins; whilst Rich Loizou received a prison sentence of 15 months. Julian Brock received a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months. The 3 sent to prison are the first people in the UK to be jailed for taking part in peaceful anti-fracking protests. The crowd of about 60 anti-fracking campaigners, who had gathered outside the court for the start of the hearing, were shocked by the severity of the sentences,
One of the defence lawyers, Kirsty Brimelow QC, referred to an earlier ruling by Lord Hoffmann, who had said:
“It is a mark of a civilised society that it can accommodate protest.”
But, clearly, the UK doesn’t seem to be able to accommodate even entirely peaceful protest. As was pointed out in court, the motivation of the Frack Free Four was to act for future generations and the future of the planet; and, at all times, this was an entirely peaceful political protest against an industry that has been either permanently or temporarily banned in many European countries.
After the sentences were handed down, Rosalind Blevins, mother of Simon Blevins, had this to say:
“My son and the others were working under a social conscience for the good of the planet. I am proud of them for standing up against climate change. There is no doubt about climate change. 98% of scientists agree that climate chaos is happening. We have all got to stand up and reduce our use of fossil fuels now.”
Living in a ‘Banana Monarchy’
Miranda Cox, a campaigner against Cuadrilla’s operations in Lancashire and a Kirkham Town councillor, said:“This is a very dark day for British justice and for democracy.”
Whilst Greenpeace UK’s executive director, John Sauven, said: "It's a strange society that massively rewards those responsible for causing more climate change while putting those trying to stop it in jail. Ministers have changed laws, taken away homeowners' rights and distorted the planning process to make way for the shale industry, yet it's four peaceful protesters that get punished for climbing on a lorry.”
Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor, who has campaigned against the onshore oil and gas industry in south-east England, said: “Any government that conspires with the dirty fossil fuel industry against its own people is rotten to the core. Dissent is not a crime in any country with a political system fit to be called a democracy. Consequently, the sentences handed to the frack-free four are chilling.”
But it seems that things may get worse before they get better: just the other day, a young female protester’s arm was broken by a police officer at Preston New Road.
Yet further evidence, if it were needed, how the fracking companies and their facilitators seem intent on destroying our democracy, as well as our planet.
If the dirty energy companies, and their many facilitators, think injunctions, prison sentence and ‘robust’ policing will stop the movement to protect our water, communities and climate from fracking, they are in for a surprise!
There is no time to waste.
Allan Todd is a member of Allerdale & Copeland Green Party, an anti-fracking activist and a Green Left supporter