Roundup: Rolling Resistance anti-fracking actions (July 10-17)

This extended roundup by Freedom News and Reclaim The Power looks at some of the key events which have taken place over week two of the month-long Rolling Resistance against Cuadrilla’s controversial campaign to begin a major gas fracking operation at Preston new Road, just outside Blackpool.

Monday, July 10th

In an intimidating start to the week, Lancashire police announced they would be starting a “mutual aid” system: getting reinforcements (at extra cost to the taxpayer) from other officers across the UK. The force had previously run similar initiatives in 2013, but it was the first time at Preston New Road. Many protectors had experienced violence and aggression from security and the police in the first week of the campaign, so the news made people nervous.

Monday’s action went ahead regardless however and began at fracking company Cuadrilla’s headquarters about 25 minutes from the Preston New Road fracking site. A rowdy bunch taped up the building as a climate crime scene, dressed up as security guards, and created a “sterile area” to give Cuadrilla a taste of their own medicine.

Meanwhile, down at the fracking site, the truck surfers were out. A slow walk helped slow down two delivery trucks and lorries, and used creative tactics to divert the police. This meant the surfers could climb up on top of the vehicles and stop them from moving onto the site for around four-and-a-half hours.

If that wasn’t enough of a headache for Cuadrilla, it also turned out that their drill had been damaged and one of their suppliers backed out. Overall a terrible day for Cuadrilla and a jubilant one for the protectors.

A darker moment happened part-way through the day however when a van driver leaving Cuadrilla rolled out of the site at high speed and ran down a protector on the way out. The van initially drove off before stopping further down the road. Fylde Police have said they will be taking no further action.

Tuesday, July 11th

A day of decoy tactics in pouring rain saw a group of sneaky arm-tubers – who lay in the middle of the road to prevent access to the site. The gates were blocked for hours as the police set up a sterile area and called out a special team to cut out of the arm tubes — only to discover they were made of foam and straw! This successful show of defiance (and cheekiness) was a massive boost to everyone’s confidence at the roadside.

Wednesday, July 12th

A day that started sadly with the police eviction at 6am of the beautiful kerbside camp and towers ended up being one of inspiration with two deeply moving actions.

First, the serene anti-fracking being Lancashire Nanas came out in force. The Nanas have been at the forefront of the resistance for several years and are truly a force to be reckoned with. All dressed in white, a group of around 90 women processed up Preston New Road and held a peaceful vigil in response to all the police and security violence of recent days. They told moving stories about their personal motivations for joining the resistance; the importance of standing against aggression; and why we must keep resisting.

Half-way through came another action with a very human touch as three generations of the same Lancashire-based family locked on and blockaded Cuadrilla’s gates.  Gillian Kelly, who took action with her partner, son and granddaughter, said: “As a result of this action, I would like many more people to stand up and be counted, because numbers really do make a difference.”

Thursday, July 13th

PR Marriott, based in Chesterfield, is becoming increasingly infamous for its involvement in supplying drill, seismic testing and rig parts to Cuadrilla in Lancashire. It was time to pay them a visit, and to support the protection camp that has been based outside their offices for the last two weeks. Another inspiring crew set up a tripod and locked on with arm tubes outside the gates, to stop action for the day. The group included one brave local woman who had never taken direct action before, but was empowered to stand up and put her body on the line for the first time.

Back at Preston New Road, protectors were honoured to be joined by William Hawk of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Standing Rock are on the frontline of the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline.  He reminded that the fight against fracking in Lancashire is part of a wider global resistance to extreme energy and environmental destruction.

Friday, July 14th

The end of the working week saw a mass demo for climate, jobs, renewables and divestment. The day started with a two-car lock on, which kept the gates shut until the crowds arrived. An estimated 200 people came down to the roadside, many for the first time. Protectors celebrated the resistance so far and heard from a range of speakers about the solutions we need to see and the wider politics of climate justice, and economic and social justice – of which the anti-fracking movement is part.

Many trade unions were represented including PCS, Unite, Unison, the NUT and UCU (GMB is sadly supporting Cuadrilla) and their speakers emphasised how trade unions would keep supporting the fight against fracking. Strength in numbers meant our mere presence shut Cuadrilla’s site down for the day. It felt like a carnival, with singing, delicious food and even some disco yoga and this very positive and powerful day ended with people linking arms in front of the gate.

Saturday and Sunday, July 15th-16th

“Solidarity Saturday” and Sunday saw a bit of respite from the rush of direct action at Preston New Road, with a training day on direct action, dealing with the media and how to stop a charter flight, among many other workshops.

However in Derbyshire the protectors camp near PR Marriott was raided and nine people arrested under allegations including aggravated trespass and “intimidation,” citing new laws brought in under the Trade Union Act 2016 which criminalises picket-line activities that might make strikebreakers uncomfortable. A video of one of the arrests is here.

More cheering news also emerged however that fracking firms have been struggling to find financing from major banks, which are worried about the long-term viability of the drilling projects in the face of widespread popular opposition. The new adds to revelations last month that Cuadrilla, which is also struggling with supply firms which have dropped out over the controversy, is losing money hand over fist.

Monday, July 17th

Police at the entrance to the Cuadrilla site today, pic by Reclaim the Power

As of today the police are reportedly back on site with a large presence, prompting Reclaim the Power to wonder, as supporters from the Red Line climate change campaign showed up to bolster the protectors: “If it takes this many police to defend one well pad, how many would they need to support 100 wells?”


Featured pic: A protector at PR Marriott in Derbyshire perching on a tripod on Thursday. Pic: Reclaim The Power