21 March 2014

Fracking and Policing

Firstly I think huge credit must go to the Salford Star. Nearly every day, they are the only ones reporting on the actual on the ground happenings at Barton Moss. Thanks to them we have a picture of how accurate the "Independent Protest Panel" report into policing will be.

You can read yesterday's report here as the Panel attends the protest:

A group of four `independent assessors' were present at Barton Moss today but stayed behind police lines during the slow walk in front of lorries delivering to the IGas exploratory drilling site.

"We didn't see head nor tail of them until the police line had been formed at the bottom of Barton Moss Road, and they proceeded to just walk up the lane while speaking to the second in command and a few officers who had clearly been dedicated to do that liaison for the day" said Dan from the Barton Moss Community Protection Camp.

"They were just talking to the police, so how they can possibly expect to get a thorough picture of what is happening on the Moss?" he explained "It didn't seem that it was independent or balanced.

"The police were very much on their best behaviour" he added "They didn't deploy the Tactical Aid Unit - and after the group had left, in the afternoon the TAU were back on site: the nasty malicious attitude was back, they were threatening arrests left, right and centre, they were pushing people and shoving people and it was pretty much back to normal. This morning was very, very different and not like it happens normally at all."

Contrast that to the previous day's report and by the eyewitness accounts given, a brutal arrest and treatment of Vanda, one of the protestors:

Barton Moss protector, Vanda Gillet, was violently arrested on Monday for the second time* by Greater Manchester Police Tactical Aid Unit, in scenes that sickened tens of thousands of people who viewed the footage (click here), photos and eye witness accounts (see previous Salford Star article – click here).

After her violent arrest at Barton Moss, Vanda was taken to Royal Bolton Hospital - rather than the nearer Salford Royal Hospital - for medics to examine her head wounds. And once discharged was kept in a cell, naked, for four hours.

A press release issued by the Northern Police Monitoring Project tonight states…

"Last night the man who filmed her arrest, Dr Steven Peers, spoke with Ms Gillet for a few minutes. Speaking from Styal prison where she is currently being held, Ms Gillet described to Dr Peers how her clothes had been confiscated following her arrest. She told him that, after four hours naked, she was given a paper boiler suit to wear. Ms Gillet was transferred to Bolton General Hospital and then taken to Bolton Police Station at about 10pm on Monday night.

"At 2am on Tuesday morning, still wearing only the paper boiler suit, she was brought to the custody desk at Bolton Police Station and told that if she accepted conditional bail then she would be released.

The Manchester Evening News, to be fair to them, have tried to raise fracking as an issue and have reported on the views of protestors, like the Green Party's Anne Power:

“I was brought up to think the police were on the side of the public. They were honest and open. They were respected for what they did. But this is something else. The police come here in their huge numbers. There may be 20 or 30 protesters and they come with 30 vans full of police. Is that necessary?

“Then when they are there on the site they are treating us so badly. They are bullying and pushing and shoving. I’ve spoken to various women who felt very offended and very...violated is the word they used, to have these male elbows and arms round the waist.

“I’ve felt it myself and I felt utterly violated to have these hands round my waist, the first time I stood in this line. I’ve been manhandled by police and they are always telling me it’s for my own good.

“I realised after two sessions they just wanted me out of the way so they could push the younger ones, and I’ve witnessed it, beat up the younger ones."

However, reporting from the Guardian, Independent and other national media has been woeful. Our free media is not just there to enable freedom of speech, but their presence and reporting can prevent a lot of the brutality that has been witnessed. If an independent panel can cause the police to alter their tactics for the morning, imagine what embedded or undercover media coverage at Barton Moss could do? I'll be writing not just to Manchester's Police Commissioner but to our newspapers as well on this issue.

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