AT the February meeting of Bolton TUC, there was concern expressed at the role of the police, and their attitude to anti-fracking campaigners at the Preston New Road site, Little Plumpton.

Here, Cuadrilla is attempting to drill for shale gas, despite the opposition of the council, and the majority of the local population.

Bolton MP Yasmin Quereshi recently visited the site and expressed her support for the campaigners.

Several delegates report alarming police numbers; disproportionate use of violence by Cuadrilla security, and increasing numbers of arrests which have subsequently been thrown out by the courts.

One of our own senior delegates was the subject of one such recent unjustified arrest, suffering five hours of incarceration and the stigma and anxiety of being charged for exercising his legitimate rights while waiting for trial, only to have the charges dropped prior to a subsequent court hearing. While he has chosen not sue the police for compensation, he will consider pursuing a complaint against them.

Bolton TUC is concerned at the decline in police numbers across the country; it is therefore very concerned to witness massive police attendance from around the country at the peaceful anti-fracking demonstrations, where the interests of Cuadrilla are being protected, come what may.

A multi-million pound lobbying campaign in the right places gets results it seems.

Wouldn’t the police be better deployed elsewhere?

And shouldn’t they protect the public, rather than employing the aggressive and confrontational tactics which have caused locals to make comparisons with the miners’ strike ?

Anyone who wants further evidence of police strategy towards a campaign which is set to last a long time should attend a picket at the Plumpton site, where protesters will be present until Cuadrilla is defeated.

There will be a “celebration” day on March 16 to which everyone is welcome. This campaign will only end when Cuadrilla is defeated.

Bolton TUC supports the campaign, opposes fracking, and objects to police tactics which put the protection of big business above the right to peaceful protest.

Protecting the earth is not a crime!

Tom Hanley

Media Correspondent

Bolton TUC