Harry from Frack Free Greater Manchester shares the experience of his first trip to Preston New Road…
Judy collected Jan (my wife) and myself from Prestwich Tesco at about 9-30 in the morning and we arrived at the protest camp at Maple Farm Nursery about an hour later.
Various individual protesters at the camp greeted us on our arrival and brought us up to date with current and recent events there over the last few days. These included a ‘lock-on’ that was taking place at the site gate that day and an incident that happened on the last Green Monday at the site entrance when 85yr old Anne Power was dragged (rather than carried) by the police from the site entrance to the opposite side of the road.
We walked to the site entrance each carrying an Anti-Fracking placard to join approximately thirty other protesters who were engaged in peaceful protests on both sides of the road. As we joined in with the protest we met others who had come from various parts of Greater Manchester, so there were about ten of us in all from the area.
During the time we were there a ‘lock-on’ was shielded from public view by a number of unformed police officers and three police vans. This ‘lock-on’, which started prior to our arrival, lasted approx 5 hours until a specialist ‘cutting team came (from Yorkshire?) . Whilst the ‘lock-on’ was in progress the police operated a contraflow system with traffic lights at either end. It seemed to me that protesters were prevented from giving the ‘locked-on’ protesters support and were unable to monitor their welfare by the tight cordon of police officers and their vans. These protesters were eventually arrested and taken away by the police.
The ‘Police liaison officers’ were present on the opposite side of the road next to the protesters. Their job they told me was to monitor the ‘situation ‘and assist the other officers. After having spoke with a female officer from Blackburn I suggest that they were also there to gather information about the protesters!
Throughout our time there we waved our placards, had positive responses from motorists, blew whistles (!), spoke to various protesters and exchanged ideas, gave support, and listened to their stories e.g. a local lady whose house was damaged by the earthquake in Blackpool a few years ago, a local couple who live nearby who visit the site every day whose house value has dropped, and stories of local estate agents denying the fact to their customers the this area is a prospective fracking site.
After a few hours we left the site and called in at Ma Bakers Cafe for a quick brew en route home.
Until the next time!