Powerful letter to the Greater Manchester Police from an arrested protector
This article was derived from BIFF ! (Britain & Ireland Frack Free)
Published on 21 Dec 2013 on BIFF’s Facebook
Powerful letter to the Greater Manchester Police from an arrested protector
Seems appropriate to send this out on the darkest day of the year. As the light will be returning to the world I hope it shines on the decision makers of this country and allows them to see more clearly. It’s an open letter to GMP about their actions and my last arrest. Thank you for all your support and well wishes.
I am writing to you regarding my treatment by your officers on the 13th and 14th of this month and your handling of the Barton Moss anti-fracking protest, and to voice my sense of injustice at the absurdity of my arrest and subsequent overnight imprisonment for merely exercising my legal right to protest.
To start with I would like to sincerely and publicly express my gratitude to the night officer who showed me the level of respect that we should all show to each other regardless of differing backgrounds, beliefs and position within society. This man demonstrated his humanity by taking a little time out of what seemed a pretty hectic Friday night to talk to me like a human being. This helped me through what would otherwise have been a much more harrowing experience. I didn’t catch your name but thank you.
Barton Moss is the 3rd anti-fracking camp I have attended this year as it’s a cause my conscience will not let me ignore. In May I spent a water-logged week in Lancashire where drilling company Cuadrilla first sunk its teeth into the English countryside. I followed their progress to Balcombe in Sussex where the opposition to this poisonous, destructive and corrupt industrialisation of the countryside first gained the national prominence that it so urgently deserves. This was due not least to well informed, creative, peaceful protesters being met by overly zealous policing. I would have hoped that the police would have learnt lessons from the 3 month long camp but after less than 12 hours at Barton Moss I discovered this is sadly not the case.
You are still treating peaceful protesters as criminals. You are still making arrests where no crime has been committed. You have wasted your time, court time, tax payers money, and have caused unnecessary suffering to those you are arresting. At Balcombe a disabled protester had her mobility equipment put in jeopardy by an officer forcing her electric wheelchair out of the way instead of facilitating her right to peacefully protest. At Barton Moss in the process of arresting me you pushed a disabled man out of the way into a ditch breaking his leg. And you are still facilitating these ecocidal maniacs in their daily business without questioning whose interests you are serving.
The force should ask why as a public service it is being used at all our expense (not just monetarily) to drive through the infrastructure of this profound pollution. It is clear that a major national debate is needed. It is not right that companies recklessly driven by desire for huge profits should be allowed to risk something as fundamentally important as our drinking water. These same companies have many of our mps and members of the House of Lords, whose decisions facilitate the industry, up to their necks in fossil fuel investments creating vast areas of ‘conflict of interest’. The less used word for this – corruption.
Prior to my arrest, my behaviour was no different to the many others I was marching with. If what I was doing was really breaking the law why weren’t there many more arrests? Your arrest strategy of ‘just pluck a few from the crowd’ seems driven by the desire to scare other protesters away from exercising their legal right to protest. My arrest seemed entirely arbitrary apart from thetestimony of one officer (collar number 11505) to his senior that my behaviour was threatening. This is just absurd to anyone in the vicinity, or if you look at the video footage. If this officer towering over me with the full authority of the law is genuinely threatened by a woman who is 5 months pregnant and who at the time was walking backwards drinking a cup of lukewarm tea, trying to engage him in intelligent conversation, perhaps he should be undergoing some form of psychological evaluation. Exactly what was he threatened by? Does he have a pathological fear of pregnant women, tea, or more depressingly, intelligent conversation. This man was willing to misuse his considerable authority to remove a young woman for peacefully exercising a basic and vital human right. As so often it sadly seems the case that the authorities would rather violently remove the messenger than confront the inconvenient truth of the message.
Time and again during the protest the front line police and PLO officers were peddling the same line: ‘you voted didn’t you?’ implying first that we should be voting as opposed to protesting, and second that the country voted for fracking. Fracking was not mentioned in the 2010 election campaign of ‘The greenest government ever’ so how could a vote for the current government constitute an acceptance of fracking. Even if it had been mentioned, to suggest that once the country has voted people should simply suspend all democratic activity till the next election irrespective of how our politicians choose to act is just plain daft, and represents a dangerous failure to understand the democratic process.
When officers were speaking to someone who chose not to vote (one in the 35% of the electorate that didn’t) it was suggested by officers that they should try voting before protesting. I would like to inform those officers that people who protest in the face of injustice have been central to every civilising democratic advance from slavery to the rights of women, from weekends to healthcare for all. Protest exposes crucial issues the nation might otherwise be unaware of. When our government is found to be corrupt or simply just horrendously misguided, it is through peaceful protest that we can hold them accountable and ensure the real interests and democratic will of the people is actually upheld.
I assume we’d agree the police forces of this country are there to keep the peace. They exist to protect and serve the people not simply to be tools of an oppressive and corrupt regime. My hope is that you could ensure your officers understand why peaceful protest is so crucial to our democracy and could stop treating protesters as criminals. We are concerned citizens who are very passionate about this vital issue. This is our nation’s drinking water at risk and it shouldn’t be gambled away purely for private profit. What’s more, according to increasingly stark warnings from thescientific community, to prevent runaway climate change we need to be moving away from fossil fuels not setting up the infrastructure to frack for more.
As the beginning of this letter demonstrates I don’t think the whole of the police force are ignorant bully boys but there are bad apples, which should be made accountable for their actions. You are following the orders of a corrupt government and I implore you to stand up and challenge this for all our sakes. I feel as a whole your great responsibility to the people of this country is not being fulfilled.
I look forward to your response.
Footage of the snatch here from around 4 minutes:
Barton Moss Protection Camp Barton Moss Road, Just off A57 next to Airport, Eccles M30 7RL