Anti-opencast campaigners speak out at abuse by police and bailiffs

Today, members of the now evicted ‘Pont Valley Protection Camp’, have
reported ‘sexist’ and ‘abusive’ behaviour, threats of violence and a
‘dangerous lack of safety awareness’ on the part of police and
enforcement officers (‘bailiffs’) charged with conducting the eviction
of the camp on Thursday and Friday last week.

The camp was a protest against Banks Groups’ proposed opencast mine
between Dipton and Leadgate.

During the eviction 7 protectors were arrested and members of the public
were ordered to leave the area. The eviction was conducted by
enforcement officers, supported by the police, in order to allow Banks
Group to extract coal from the Pont Valley.

One of the authors of the report claims to have been dragged out of the
site by a digger which was attached to a chain that enforcement officers
wrapped around the ‘lock on tube’ that was around her arm, while watched
over by police officers.

They said: “This was really scary and dangerous. My arm was in a
lot of pain and I was just hoping that the metal tube wouldn’t move too
quickly as it would break my arm. They wrapped a chain around the tube
on my arm and attached the end of the chain to a digger. They then
proceeded to pull on the chain to lift the lock on with my arm inside.
At this point, the officers had acknowledged that the chain could
possibly slip off from the tube and cut through my shoulder with the
metal tube falling back and breaking my arm. But they didn’t seem to
care enough to stop.”

“As they lifted the tube I also had to slowly move with it in order not
to break my arm. The officers had then planned to pull up the tube with
my arm in it and drag the whole thing on the digger to the police
station and then to the hospital to cut open the tube and free my arm.
This whole experience was accompanied by the mocking, bullying and
cruelty of the officers watching me cry in pain. They used unnecessary
violence and they seemed to want to get their work done as early as
possible regardless of whether or not what they were doing was

The report also details that women were referred to as “butch dykes” and
that enforcement officers discussed them in an overtly sexual manner.

Another person reported that enforcement officers threatened to “jump on
top of me and break my arm in the lock-on and drag me out”. Others in
tunnels report that they were threatened with the use of diggers to
remove them.  A local resident said “Although the campaigners
understood the positions they put themselves in, we were all shocked by
the lack of safety concerns and the abusive behaviour on the part of
police and enforcement officers. All events over the course of the
eviction were watched over by the police with little to no reaction or
intervention. It is Banks Group who is ultimately responsible for unsafe
and abusive behaviour since it was the party who stood to gain from a
swift end to the camp in order to uphold its 3rd June deadline for
starting soil stripping work.”

Now campaigners are calling for further actions to be taken to disrupt
the plans of Banks Group and stop open cast mining in the Pont Valley,
which includes campaigning for the protection of great crested newts,
and starting a new camp in a nearby location.

Photo: Pont Valley Protection Camp twitter