A watchdog has called for an urgent review of police tactics at fracking protests

Acting on orders from the government, the police are protecting a deeply unpopular industry and their tactics are becoming more desperate.

A new report appears to show how the police and government are taking stronger and stronger measures to protect the fracking industry — this is in the face of growing opposition to the process. 

A police monitoring group and Green MEP Keith Taylor have called for an independent review of police tactics at anti-fracking protests, accusing police forces of ‘confrontational and aggressive tactics’ and of having a ‘chilling effect’ on freedom to protest.

“The scale of complaints about intimidating and confrontational police tactics at Preston New Road in Lancashire means an external review of the policing operation there is now essential,” police monitoring group Netpol said.

Netpol, who have been present at anti-fracking protests since 2014 in Preston New Road, Lancashire and Kirby Misperton, in North Yorkshire, said that the police seem “ready to contain, assault or arrest any demonstrator for the slightest infringement”, adding:

“Police tactics appear deliberately intent on making it as difficult as possible for local people to effectively oppose the activities of the onshore oil and gas industry.” 

The report released by the group, ‘Protecting the Planet is Not a Crime’, claims that police have failed to distance themselves from the perceived influence of lobbying by the onshore oil and gas industry.

Policing at the Preston New Road fracking site in Lancashire alone has cost between £6m and £8m since January, according to figures released by Green Party peer Jenny Jones.

Keith Taylor MEP, who supports the call for a review, said “the bully boy tactics and disproportionate policing I’ve witnessed firsthand… is why I continue to support Netpol’s call for an urgent and independent review of the policing of fracking protests”. He continued:

“Ministers have a lot invested in unconventional oil and gas exploration, literally and ideologically, but they have entirely failed to persuade the public of its benefits… an authoritarian crackdown on British citizens’ right to protest will not squash fracking opposition.”

Kevin Blowe, the coordinator for Netpol, said: “we have monitored increasingly confrontational and violent tactics against protesters, efforts to deliberately stifle the effectiveness of their protests and a failure to listen and respond to growing local concerns.”

“The likely result is a long-term legacy of resentment and distrust that will last long after protests are over. This is why we believe a genuinely independent and external review of Lancashire’s policing operation is now essential”.

Without excusing the behaviour documented in this report, it’s fair to say that the police are not the root of the problem. Ultimately our lawmakers are must take responsibility. It’s down to the government to listen to the public, stop fracking in the UK, and end the violent police regime that upholds it.

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