Pic: The Guardian
The UK’s only Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, was among dozens of anti-fracking protesters arrested today as a “day of action” saw thousands of people take part in demonstrations at sites across the country.
Hundreds of activists blockaded the Balcombe oil drilling site in Sussex owned by Cuadrilla, as well as its Lichfield headquarters and the offices of its PR firm.
Demonstrators hung banners at the country home of the Conservative Lord Howells, who stirred controversy by suggesting the “desolate” north should be fracked and attempted to put up a small wind turbine at the home of Tory MP Francis Maude, whose constituency includes Balcombe.
Protesters at Balcombe blocked part of the site road but were driven back by police. Lucas, who is the The MP for Brighton Pavilion, said she joined the protest to make up for the “democratic deficit” that was allowing corporate oil and gas interests to trump the concerns of ordinary people.
“Along with everyone else who took action today, I’m trying to stop a process which could cause enormous damage for decades to come,” she said today.
“People today, myself included, took peaceful non-violent direct action only after exhausting every other means of protest available to us. Despite the opposition to fracking being abundantly clear, the government has completely ignored the views of those they are supposed to represent.”
Demonstrations in Balcombe today. Pic: Gareth Fuller/PA
Thousands of people marched through the Sussex countryside today in the biggest show of strength to date for the UK’s anti-fracking movement, the start of a three-day campaign against exploratory drilling near the village of Balcombe in west Sussex.
More than 2,000 supporters from around the country arrived in coaches and by train and filled “matchmaking” forms to on arrival, listing their preferences and skills in activities such as climbing, standing their ground, getting through or over fences, looking after people, providing entertainment or documenting the action.
Cuadrilla has in the past few days, after discussions with local police, halted drilling activities at the site and removed some equipment. The company has also urged protestors not to attempt anything that could compromise their own safety. The firm has partially drilled an exploratory oil well on the site and tests on the data obtained from drilling will help to determine whether the company presses on with its plans.
Protestor Liz Lyddon, from Brighton, said: “I am very concerned about climate change for our future generations. Fracking is not the direction we should be taking – there should be a huge investment in renewable green energy but there is no sign that any of our politicians are even thinking seriously about that.
“This shows that the opposition to fracking is growing.. and I do think that as people start to think about fracking they will begin to think about the wider issues around climate change and energy supply.”