The year began with the group supporting the camp at Barton Moss. Having had the question of their arresting people for Obstructing the Public Highway questioned in court, on the 4th January Greater Manchester Police decided to remove any ambiguity as to the legal status of Barton Moss Road by stealing the Public Footpath.
Next day the Protectors learnt that GMP were alleging that a flare had been fired at one of their helicopters landing at Manchester City Airport. The 38 CCTV camera on the IGas site missed it, along with those at the airport, on the helicopter, on the M62 and at the Barton Moss Secure Unit, as did everyone on the motorway and Liverpool Road and the entire population of the Irlam and Brookfield estates. Two days later a police search of the camp resulted in everyone’s bedding getting soaked by the Manchester rain. Help from the local community, and the ethical cosmetics company Lush, saved the day and nobody died of exposure.
On the 12th a Solidarity Sunday rally attracts the best part of a thousand people. The next day the Prime Minister went to a fracking site in Lincolnshire to announce bribes to local authorities that accept fracking. The press descend on Bart n Moss for our view, which was most eloquent response was by the people who climbed on the lorries and blocked the road for the rest of the morning.
On the 26th another Solidarity Sunday rally attracted over eight hundred people.
On the 12th Judge Khalid Qureshi told Manchester Magistrates Court what we already knew and ruled that Barton Moss Lane is a Private Road to which the public have access as a footpath, and not a Public Highway, meaning no more arrests for Obstructing the Public Highway.
The police kept away for two days then returned with greater violence and the new charge of Aggravated Trespass – on a public footpath.
The main event of the month was over a thousand people marching through the middle of Manchester in the biggest anti-fracking gathering yet seen in the UK. On the 13th it was a Happy Monday as Bez joined the Protectors for the daily slow walk and IGas operations finally finished at the end of the month and FFGM helped return the site to it’s original state, minus the weeds and the trees that IGas and the police had chopped down.
On the 8th a 3000 name petition was handed in to Salford Council, which should have triggered a debate on fracking. However the council preferred to break its own rules and remain silent.
The Barton Moss camp ended with a big party and litter pick. As we were doing what we promised and leaving eviction proceedings were halted.
On the 2nd Manchester University Students Union hosted a debate on fracking at which FFGM spoke. The students overwhelmingly agreed with us that it should be banned.
On the 10th a hustings was held at the Mechanics Institute.
On the 11th Anne Power, Manchester’s most arrested octogenarian, won an Observer Ethical Award as a Local Hero.
On the 18th Simon Pook of Robert Lizar solicitors announced in Liverpool High Court that evidence has been found of ground water contamination at the Barton Moss site.
Freedom of Information requests reveal Greater Manchester Police have been economical with the truth about the number of complaints they received during the Barton Moss campaign.
Netpol, the Network for Police Monitoring, starts to investigate the relationship between IGas and Greater Manchester Police.
There was a reunion at Barton Moss whilst the IGas share price, which had hit 180p in January, fell below £1.
On the 21st FFGM organised the Manchester People’s Climate March. 2000 people, including the Leader of the Green Party in England and Wales Natalie Bennett, marched through the city to the Midland Hotel where they called on the Labour Party Conference to ban fracking. Ed Miliband was seen watching from his car.
A report by Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd’s Independent Panel on Policing and Protests, to which FFGM contributed, leaves many questions on the policing of Barton Moss unanswered, but does raise more doubts about ‘flaregate’.
On the 12th Trafford Council, who had received a 1500 name petition against fracking the previous week, voted against Shale gas extraction in a Full Council meeting.
On the 18th we hosted the Northwest launch of the One Million Climate Jobs report, which featured a special report on how many more jobs would be created in the region by clean alternatives to fracking.
With no sign of the frackers returning to Greater Manchester any time soon FFGM went over to the Wirral to support the campaign against IGas’s new test site at Ellesmere Port. Meanwhile their share price continues to fall, passing 50p and still falling.
Thank you to everyone who helped make this a tremendous year for Frack Free Greater Manchester.
We’ve not made Manchester frack free yet, but we picked up the baton that Balcombe passed on and ran with it. We’ve seen civil disobedience and mass rallies. They tried to lock us out of the political debate but we managed to break down the door and let ourselves in. The police tried to smear us and the media ignore us, but both failed. Manchester, the radical city, the first city of the industrial revolution has said “no” to fracking and it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the country follows us.