Reclaim The Power Action Day
by Inka Stafrace
Monday the 18th August was yet another incredible illustration of organized activism and the willingness of people to put their bodies and time on the front-line for the greater good.Clean air and water are indisputably part of the greater good!
Fracking companies and the UK government believe that they are worth gambling on for profit. Frack Free Lancashire and Reclaim the Power do not.
There were 13 direct actions around the country today that spawnwd from the Reclaim The Power activist, time-limited camp in Blackpool. They included: a die in; lock-ons; super glues and banner drops to name just some techniques used to bring attention to the web of players connected to and part of the fracking industry.
The PR company for Cuadrilla (an energy company currently frack test drilling), PPS in Manchester closed down in anticipation of activism. IGas and the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs in London was blocked and occupied all morning. Relevant councillors in Lancashire were targeted. Financier HSBC customers had to walk over ‘dead’ bodies in their bank. Total Environment Technology, a haulage company for Cuadrilla, had their doors super glued.
This restrained power by the police is at dire odds to their usual treatment of protesters, particularly ones that cause damage to property. Seeing as the police all over the country uniformly acted in this unusual manner it begs the questions; whether they were given orders to not arrest, by whom and why?
13 coordinated direct actions in a day.
On Saturday, in a plenary session the campers were asked to divide themselves into like-minded pairs. A form, in somewhat of a survey format was then given out to fill so the organizing team of Reclaim The Power (open for anyone to join) got an idea of which pair of participants were up for doing what.
On a scale of 1 to 10 , how do you feel towards getting arrested, climbing, creative expression, travelling far, social media, photography, video?
Presumably they had figured out the companies, fracking sites, financiers and councilors they wanted targeted and they matched people up with the actions they felt would suit them best.
The organizers then formed affinity groups which the pairs of participants were expected to join and for me this was an awkward but workable moment.
Some people, such as myself, had chosen to do activities that we could get arrested for and we were placed with people we had never worked with before. This was disconcerting. Arrests can result in minor charges or major ones and the difference can be something as simple as being with the wrong activist colleague who for example: may have violent tendencies!
These affinity groups had about 7-8 participants in each. We then as a larger group filled out the same form again, this time for the organizers to allocate an action to us. Consequently this was an opportunity for people to get to know each other a little bit more. Although I was hesitant to openly trust all the people I was meeting for the first time, I was also willing to really give it a go. At this stage our affinity group broke the ice with some activist history introductions. This eased my anxiety as I discovered I was with an experience crowd.
On Saturday night we were allocated the companies, fracking sites, financiers and councillors which the main organizers had chosen to target. At this juncture our affinity group had another 10 people join. They had been sent to our group by the main organizers right there and then as we were handed out our task. The timing of this was quite awful. This was definitely the most awkward link in this rather elaborate way of organizing activists into separate actions.
I was in a group that was highly likely to reap arrests and the number of unknown quantities had just trebled.
It is unclear if the balloning of our group in such a way could have been helped. It seemed it was a surprise for all of us in the affinity group, now 17 strong.
Nevertheless we dealt with this. It took time. Presumably other affinity groups were dealing with the same issue and we all shared the attitude of making it work. We had to do introductions again and people who knew others were vouching for each other but some of us did not know either of such vouching parties. Regardless we got through it. Our action was to go to London, target IGas HQ somehow and then come home again.
I bailed out at this point because I was very uncomfortable about leaving my camera gear in the tent for two days unattended. I also really did not want to get back to London so soon. The 16 others all went to London the next day in preparation for the action on Monday. I helped out in social media tweeting like crazy on #olsx and then I put together a short video for media use.
Legal Observers were on call for any arrests.
Press releases from the Reclaim The Power media team.
BREAKING, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Cuadrilla PR company PPS occupied by campaigners in Toxic Suits- “Taking the PPS!”
BREAKING: Reclaim the Power activists take action against councillors and haulage company in order to highlight disruption from fracking to local communities and the environment.
BREAKING: Local businesses show support for Reclaim the Power as protestors occupy Cuadrilla’s Northern Headquarters, opposite the Chamber of Commerce to protest against plans to frack in Lancashire
BREAKING: New Rathlin Energy fracking site blockaded at Crawberry Hill – Security Guards use extreme and brutal force against protestors
BREAKING: Swansea University Bay Campus shut down by residents and students campaigning against Fracking research
Stopping the fracking industry in the UK will take more than an action day.
The government is supportive of fracking and it is only grassroots movements that can stop this from happening.
Please visit the No Dash for Gas website and-or Facebook (in your area) to find out more about how you can be involved with the anti-fracking movement.
If that is not your thing… find out what is and do it please!
Write letters, call in talk back radio. talk to your neighbours, families and friends about fracking.
It seems ethically reprehensible that the UK government would support such a practice but if you can come up with a straight answer (with evidence to support it) as to why the UK government is supporting it, please write in and tell us!
A note about the camp. I was blown away with how well organized Reclaim The Power 2014 was. Knowing a big about event management and activist movements the result of their hard work is something that I hope they are proud of because they should be.
I was a punter along for the ride. I was not hugely invested in the process but there to give my support to the cause and learn and I was pleasantly surprised by how well catered for I was.
So first things first. To me the first most important part of any camp are the toilets. Some say it is the kitchen but … they are full of shit. 🙂
Here are a few photographs to show you my deep respect for the builders of the loos and the loo cleaners.
Moving along there were two kitchens for three of the five day camp. At other times there was one. The porridge of the first kitchen was not to my liking. Honey and banana helped make it edible but only just. Bread was not easy for the cooks to provide for some reason so there was only bread for two of the 6 days of camp. Lunch and dinner were always tasty. I was reminded that I am a pig and that I eat more than three meals a day. I started stashing my seconds in a plastic container and having it for breakfast so as to avoid porridge. It worked for me.
There seemed to be almost of surplus of big tents. There was the Main Marquee which could have fit 2000 people in an audience- speaker fashion. It was massive. It was great for the communal meetings, were it fit us all in, in a circle. There were individual tents for two kitchens, a media tent, a site office, a welcome tent, an internal communications office, a well being tent, a random geodesic dome, and another two sizable tents in which some folk slept and others hung out.
It is possible that Reclaim The Power were expecting a few thousand people and instead got about 400.
Reclaim The Power asked each camper to donate £30 if we could afford it. Their expenses to put the camp on circled around £17,000.
The campsite was powered by solar, wind and some gas for cooking.
So those were the basics. I am big believer in ‘getting back to basics’ and so I thought I would start with them. The reason for such building blocks of course was to present the extraordinary program of talks, plenaries, discussions and work groups. I love these activist pop up conferences. The wealth of information shared is truly enormous. Have a look at the program.
And here is my tent for good measure… There were two clusters of tents plus a line of tents that hugged the border of the site. I ended up at the edge of one of the clusters.
And with a final hats off to Frack Free Lancashire : “This is were it began and this is were it will end”. Nanagate are a group of grandmothers and mothers and friends who have spear led the anti-fracking campaign in Lancashire. It pains me to confess that I have no wide shots of their spot in the campsite. Here are some tight shots instead!