In the early hours of this morning New Hope protectors camp near Preston New Road, Lancashire was swarmed by bailiffs and police in a coordinated raid reportedly named ‘Operation Blackpool’.
A team of more than 30 bailiffs from Bristol’s Able Enforcements, bringing dogs and with assistance from specialist climbing operatives from Special Operations International, dragged activists from their beds and began dismantling their lovingly constructed homes citing common law powers which entitle private land owners to evict trespassers.
Both of these firms will be familiar to activists across the country, as they are regularly called on by landowners to evict protestors and travellers (indeed, Able Enforcements have a section on their website dedicated to ‘Traveller Evictions’). Anti-frackers most recently encountered them in the eviction of a protest camp at Horse Hill oil exploration site in Surrey. Then, as now, reports of intimidation and violence against activists were legion.
Police had put a drone up the week prior to the eviction, presumably for surveillance, and spent the day allowing people back in one at a time to collect whatever could be carried – a difficult task given that the camp has been built up over the last three years and has various larger items on it. One evictee reported: “I asked what’s going to happen to my property, is harm going to come to it, and [the officer] said yes with a big smile on his face.”
A local supporter who was came down after the attack said: “This was obviously a well-organised exercise. These people have helped us in our fight against Cuadrilla over the last few years. They’ve been our feet on the ground and have taken on an awful lot for us.”
Unsurprisingly, Operation Blackpool had the support and cooperation of the Lancashire Constabulary. Officers were present from the beginning of the raid and Steve Woods, Able Enforcement’s operations director, made clear to the Blackpool Gazette that the operation had been planned ‘in consultation’ with local police forces.
Able Enforcement has a long history of working closely with the police. One of their unique selling points as an agency is their ‘Public Order Enforcement Teams’ or ‘POETS’ who supposedly have training equivalent to Level 3 Police Tactical Support Unit Training, delivered by a ‘very experienced’ ex-cop in accordance with the official manual. Indeed, their promotional material proudly displays their operatives using rectangular Perspex shields of the sort more commonly seen deployed by the Met’s infamous Territorial Support Group in public order situations.
Set on disused land, the campers say the owner had no problem with them being there. Confronting the bailiffs, one noted “they are quite laughable really, these sad pathetic shits who think they’re in the SAS.”
Screenshots kindly donated from this livestream