Sunday, 20 May 2018

The Good, the Bad & the uncertainty...

Recently after a nun, vicar and monk spoke during faith week… I asked some police officers, just who were the ‘good guys’? And they said them. So I asked who are the ‘bad guys’ they were here policing… was it the nun, the vicar or the monk? They laughed but it isn’t really funny is it… there must be ‘bad guys’ if policing levels are what they are and the only alternative on this road is Cuadrilla. The obvious fails to be seen by those who don’t look.
Today is day 501 since we arrived at Preston New Road to face Cuadrilla and the huge task of stopping them. Since then they have built a pad, changed their traffic management plan countless times, breached till it became so troublesome and obvious that they had to make a new rule that says: “If the police are accompanying the vehicle… it doesn’t count as a breach.”… they’ve proceeded but NOT as planned; if it had been as planned, they’d have done the flow test (fracked) by now. It is estimated they are between 9 months and a year behind schedule.
The ONLY thing stopping them being on-schedule is us. No part of our government or council has put any barriers in place or asked for pause on safety considerations when Cuadrilla made changes… they just get a well-greased ride from our ‘authorities’. The knitters, the ditherers, the delayers, the prayers, the surfers, the lock-ons, the dancers, the tea-drinkers… we’re the cause; every single moment of delay has accumulated into a huge headache for Cuadrilla, with suppliers having to work round us and some, getting wised-up or fed-up enough to pull out.
Success is impossible to measure, though the share price has not recovered since we caused the drop in it and remains below .40 cents (most investors bought in at a much higher than this price).

Failure though is felt every moment of every day that any of us stand before the beast of a rig. We feel small, inconsequential and aghast that we even have to do the work of regulators and authorities in order to keep our community and its children from harm.

Our right to peaceful protest is dependent on who is in charge at any given moment and the definition of acceptable peaceful protest has diminished to banner-waving across the road from the site entrance. We continue to sit in the entrance to the site... and are removed with the regularity of the vehicle arrivals and departures. Sometimes we are moved with care… other times we are quite literally thrown. We attempt too to get in front of the vehicles to slow them (as has been done on every other frack site) but here on the busy A583 PNR… the vehicles put pedal to the floor and don’t stop for anything. The police stand by and wrap-round the rapid vehicles, putting their own lives at risk for the flatbeds with pipes, the waste trucks, the water trucks, the skip hire and the toilet cleaning vehicle – each gets the sort of policing you’d imagine for an urgently required kidney en-route to a dying patient.

But still we come… still we gather and still we stand in protest anywhere we choose until we are rudely removed. It’s a weird thing… as a small child we are picked up and popped down all the time but as a grown-up, the act of being touched without permission and moved against your choosing – is such an affront to go through. We sit and get picked up and placed elsewhere so many times but after each… return to knit, sit, sip tea and carry on our essential defiance of the misappropriated ‘law’. The police say it is always for our own safety… there is no easy way to get them to see the lunacy of this statement when they make it in front of a drill rig they are facilitating into development with their services.

Is there a breaking point for us? There can’t be because what we are doing is too essential but there are certainly parts within us that ‘snap’.

I have had two episodes where I know I have been somewhat changed inside… the sort of change that although it adds to the determination to keep on keeping on and keeping on harder… but maybe a little something of the heart and spirit is damaged along the way. But this is a small price compared to what is experienced by those just like us, acting with the same urgency and motivation elsewhere in the world. Active citizens doing what we do are imprisoned, seriously hurt and killed in other countries and this fact… makes it all the more important that we DO NOT SUBMIT. We stand for our community of course but we also stand for all the others who do the same… one world, one water, one earth and air. I wonder what it is that gets us from our situation to theirs and only know that if we give up and say it is too much hurt, risk or difficulty – that we give up something very important in society.

Watching those we admire (if you’re fighting alongside us… you are amazing) getting hurt is so bloody hard… the natural sense of needing to peel off the police officer from their bodies or even thump the ones who threw them in the hedges or against fences, is hard to ignore. The problem is that all that anger builds and you can’t direct it at Cuadrilla because they’ve got the bubble-wrap of police around them and you can’t direct it at the police because they’ve got the protection of ‘law’ on their side. Honourable people fulfilling an obligation to safety in our community …are ‘the criminals’ in this scenario and that’s just plain bloody crazy.

It hurts to see anyone harmed and takes all our might to hold ourselves back… I swear a lot more now in place of constant charges of assault that would otherwise happen if I didn’t.

The eldest of my nieces is roadside with me and I have huge respect for the incredible job she does… her decisions are wise and I don’t worry that she makes dangerous choices as she’s intelligent and places her role as a mother as a priority. She was a distance from me last week during the exiting of a vehicle and all the crazy that comes with it… I glanced across and saw a tall, strong male body pushed up against the length of her from behind… his arms wrapped tightly round her front just below her breasts and as anyone would, saw obvious assault and ran to her. To me, her little face still looks as cute as it did when she was a toddler… I clawed at the officers hands to remove them but he had ‘law’ on his side. Our instincts that are natural, right and true are also attacked and squashed down into the growing tinder-box within ourselves and I wonder where this goes, what harms we are actually unaware of taking place within and how the hell we counter any of this.

Then I remember I am a grandmother and obliged to protect the young… and I remember George Bender and how the fight overtook him and the honourable lives lost where governments are even more brutal… and so I’ll get up and be there on day 502 and 3 and 4 until whatever it is that marks the last day.

To all who are at Preston New Road Rolling Roadside Protest and all who can't be but ensure we are not unseen by sharing and supporting in any way possible - thank you, we will one day have time to pause, tend our wounds and heal past this theft from our lives. 

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Someone's Normal...

When your days are far from whatever was once normal… you tend to be more willing to join in and say yes to invitations to other people’s ‘normals’. Today I immersed in a walking meditation, listened to people of faith express their love, passion and determination to honour what they held dear and 'amen-ed' with them in easy empathy, I did the Elm Dance and joined hands in contemplation… it was warm, welcoming, enveloping and enlightening. Sharing the beliefs of others is not necessary …in order to experience their beautiful authenticity in holding them. Today was mostly a pure delight punctuated by witnessing such bravery, dignity and honour in those who stood together.
Then there are the bad ‘normals’ we encounter too… those of angry people, full of angry rage and angry faces looking to outburst all over anything that hinders their mission. We know we’ll be moved by police but we remain defiant in refusing to budge… there’s no point in stepping aside when the purpose is peaceful protest – and standing or sitting steadfast is surely the epitome of peaceful protest.
There are those police who understand the ridiculous of all this and struggle to find themselves in it… coming down on the side of basic decency and respect; they move our bodies with some care.
Then there are those others with the unspent rage, egos and maleficence – the ones who grab at you, lunge, push, shove into sharp hedges or hard against metal fencing, deliberately twist burning to wrists, dig knuckles in backs, pull hair, pinch soft underarms and handle our bodies indecently – as if we were to be despised; no longer regular citizens (many of us women over 50 years old and many elders with health or mobility issues) but obstacles, inconveniences and clutter to be cast about to make way for the only thing that matters… Cuadrilla trucks.
What drives them can’t be the profit (they won’t see it) or the urgency (no life-saving kidney on these trucks) so it must be either direction from the bosses or the obscene pleasure of exerting power over others and using torturous touches to relish it. Whatever it is… it’s NOT professional policing that we’re witnessing. These grown men and women get up each day and put on a uniform for their pay and with that role they have a code of conduct, set of ethics and rules to abide by… yet using force beyond which is necessary to ensure safety, is something we see near daily.
Over time we re-set our personal ‘normal’ to adapt to change… a new baseline of understanding is established and we accept that when ‘this’ happens… ‘that’ will likely occur next. Today my baseline of tolerance and understanding was beautifully raised as it often is, with the merging with others who come from different lives but sadly too, the baseline for frequency of violence upon my body, is raised too and the new’normal’ has the days ending with aches, pains and disappointment.
To all who are making our United Resistance Week Four, 23rd - 28th April: No Faith in Fracking so memorable for all the best reasons, thank you x

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Life Prioritised...

Families ripped and torn, our dead inadequately mourned, illnesses ignored and treatments paused, children passing through stages missed, loves not seized and lips less kissed. We could have been so much more than this…

These years could have contained so much more…

And we will never know what was lost to us whilst we had to remain on high-alert. We were not intended for endless battle.

There's one ‘go-round’ in life and as I look upon the faces of other activists who struggle too to get a truth heard and receive some fragment of justice… I see people sacrificing the joy of the ride to rush to the side of the earth and her children’s greatest needs.

This life sets fire to our past, claws away the masks of once trusted beliefs to reveal, greed, cruelty and weakness… only made bearable by the glimmers of hope, glimpses of the depths of beautiful humanity and a sense of clarity that although harsh, is at least honest.

Being clad only in flesh, we humans are not great barriers to the threats by heavy objects that threaten our young and hurtle at us at speed ... but there is no denying we will try and when we’re pushed away, will return to try again. The only other option would be to sit by, watch them drive tankers of harm into our community and wish we were bigger, stronger, louder, tougher, less fleshy… accepting a fate on behalf of our children that would be criminal.

This ‘democracy’ slammed shut the doors of access to all but those with corporate power and success as we were left at dead-ends in courts of law and courts of appeal; deals already done, dusted and signed-off in all but public name and we… we keep on poking, prodding, digging, delving, walking up those hills and merry-helling because there is no choice but to stand strong until this is done.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Silenced, Censored, Unheard...

Very grateful for the thorough and accurate reporting coming out of the Roseacre Inquiry... one piece which I'll paste after my bit, managed to capture more clearly my unusual Wednesday at the Inquiry. ...on Wednesday evening many interest parties were given their 5-minutes to put their case to the Inquiry and I was on the list. The Inquiry can ONLY address traffic issues and where many came to speak of dog walkers, horse riders, schoolchildren, residents etc being road users, I came to speak about those of us who would become road users in the area if the site got given the go-ahead. The Inspector turned off my microphone within about 1.5 minutes and gave the impression that if I continued speaking, I would put the outcome of the Inquiry in jeapordy! Surreal, unjust and ridiculous behaviour unfitting for a man in position to appear as unbiased and impartial! Thanks to Fred Moor of Counterbalance for the following coverage of all that happened: -------------------------------------------------- 211 Tina Rothery On the list we had seen, Ms Rothery had been scheduled to speak at slot eleven of fourteen speakers, but she was not called until all the other public speakers had spoken. As the end of a long day approached, but before Ms Rothery actually spoke, we had begun to draft couple of paragraphs to conclude this session. They began: "Maybe it was the lateness of the hour and the fact that (as the Inspector himself said), he had not had his dinner yet. And perhaps he didn't intend to give the impression we were forming, but we couldn't help coming to the view that he was politely putting up with having to listen to all the public speakers. He left us with the impression that this was something that had to be gone through, but not something he gave a lot of weight to. That perception can also engender the impression that he's already made up his mind to recommend the Secretary of State to allow the appeal of course. We don't think that is the case, (and we certainly hope it's not), but his manner; his phrasing; and his body language has left us with the impression that he only really wants to hear the evidence from the professional technical experts - and anything else is more or less superfluous, (as can be deduced from the exchange with Mr De Feu for RAG which we reported yesterday)." As we said, that was before Ms Rothery spoke. Her contribution raised his ire and we report it verbatim now. Inspector: "Tina Rothery?" Ms Rothery: "Thank you very much for the opportunity. My name's Tina Rothery and although I live locally I'm here as a nationwide campaigner against fracking and have been for seven years...." Inspector (interjecting): "I don't want to hear anything about fracking. As far as I'm concerned..." Ms Rothery (interjecting): "I was telling you my role and why I was here, sorry, OK. We're addressing the highway safety for when Cuadrilla comes to Roseacre if they do, and the impact of the traffic. I'm here to address the impact of the protestors if Cuadrilla comes. We'll also also arrive along with that traffic I've seen communities throughout the seven years, from Balcombe to Barton Moss, Horse Hill and everywhere in between, rise up when there is a threat they consider to their homes, their families and their children. People you wouldn't ordinarily assume would become protestors, and although the territory about them is familiar, the actual role they fulfil within that becomes very dangerous for the traffic. Trucks don't always appear as 'Trax' does, and I can speak of this from how we see Cuadrilla operate at PNR. The trucks [indistinct word - there?] look to us like something bringing harm to our children, and so therefore our response to them will be very different. Hundreds of groups of residents have formed throughout the country, and there's no reason to expect that Roseacre won't do the same. I think as you can see from the Inquiry that there are very many more against, and I've not yet seen anybody who is for.
The message also that I would think be received by Cuadrilla and this Inquiry is that over the last 15 months, approximately 480 days, protestors have been at Preston New Road site where Cuadrilla is currently developing, and have not desisted or left, and I understand that Cuadrilla was trying to put across the point that Roseacre will not see the same level of protest, and I come with a message from everybody on the four camps over at Preston New Road, that we absolutely fully intend on being in Roseacre, and objecting there was we've objected to Cuadrilla in Balcolmbe and Blackpool. So it was just to correct them on their assumption and we don't consider that just because we don't live in Roseacre, that we're not locals. Air and water - I know you don't want to consider fracking - but air and water do travel outside the area. Currently we're experiencing on Preston new Road which I can use as the only example we have at the moment, police who are overstretched, over tires and on overtime costing a great deal of money....." Inspector (interjecting): "I don't really think this is appropriate. It's not relevant to highway safety. We already know that you're intending to protest there. I'm not sure where that take the Secretary of State's decision. So thank you for appearing but I'd like you to go." Ms Rothery's microphone was off at this point and it was hard to hear her response bit we think she said: "If there's a company vehicle in a 20 mph road over 45 mph....." Inspector (interjecting): "I dont.... That may be so...." Ms Rothery: "The impact of traffic and our safety on those roads..." Inspector: "Well..." Ms Rothery: "Indistinct words but sounded like - Why can't I speak? ) Inspector: "We are aware of, of, I've been told that you are...." He stopped short of concluding this sentence and we have to say some possible unspoken endings that led from it from it troubled us. Ms Rothery tried to make progress to explain herself but with her microphone not working we could not hear what she said clearly enough to quite verbatim. Inspector: "You've obviously not been here listening to what tee scope of this inquiry is, or you wouldn't be here talking in the way that you are. OK? So as far as I'm...." Ms Rothery: "The inquiry involves the impact [and? or?] the safety as regards the traffic...." Inspector (forcefully and with even more increasing forcefulness toward the end): "The Inquiry is about the appellant's mitigation measures to improve highway safety. If You've got things to say on those then say it. If you don't have things to say on those then I'll be very grateful if you'd leave." Again we couldn't exactly hear what Ms Rothery was saying here but she seemed to be trying to speak about how Cuadrilla would deal with the safety of people who were protesting on the highway and a number of other items. Inspector: "I don't think it's a matter for me. I don't intend to go there. So as far as I'm concerned, you're taking the case nowhere. OK? All You're doing is annoying me, which is not going to, well, if you like, my, my consideration of the whole experience tonight, and a lot of people have come here to express very real concerns about the impact of the appellant's mitigation proposals. OK? Which is what I want to take away and think about." There was a brief inaudible few words from Ms Rothery which sounded like "In the interest of Roseacre I will step down" before the Inspector said
"Good" Ms Rothery left the stand and the inspector said "That's the end of my list of people wishing to speak, I don't think I've missed anyone have I? No. In that case I will adjourn the Inquiry until one o'clock tomorrow. Thank you very much for coming along It was not an edifying exchange. The Inspector must have been tired, it was 8pm after a full day, but we're not sure that justified the tone he used. Ms Rothery told us as she left that she had wanted to address the matter of Cuadrilla's plans to ensure the safety of highway protestors, saying that the Inquiry had given regard to the safety to dogs and horses on the road, but seemed not to want to consider the safety of those who were protesting on the road. To be honest we thought the Inspector had been foolish in his handling of this matter. A wiser inspector might simply have put his pen down, listened in silence until she finished, said thank you, and, if he felt inclined, not included any irrelevant aspects in his report. Seeking to effectively publicly censor what Ms Rothery could say at the Inquiry was unhelpful, and we thought it was damaging to the credibility of the Planning Inspectorate as a body, especially when he has the power to determine what goes into his report. Perhaps a fresh day will improve things.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

United Resistance Week One...

There were so many times this past week when I could have written with a heart overflowing with love, joy and gratitude… other times I could have written bereft, soul-destroyed, sore and deflated… yet it’s tonight when I’m simply tired, reasonably soothed and just a little numb with the acceptance of the inevitable of it all …that I finally find time and space to sit, think and offload in word as we concludeWeek One, 2nd - 6th April: Nanas/Women against Fracking of the United Resistance and ready self forWeek Two, 9th - 13th April: Political Colours (longing for it to be “Week DONE” and this part over with).

So how was the first week then…
Well, it was meant to be a story and that it certainly was; about Women coming together to face a direct threat to our reproductive systems, to our risk of breast cancer and most importantly… to the survival of our children through pregnancy and beyond.

The vote was meant to mean something...
We started with an event that honoured the work of fellow women activists who sought to get us a vote 100 years ago… we stand again for that vote to actually mean something and for the sacrifice of our sisters not to have been for nothing but a rip-off ‘democracy’ offering phoney participation.

Good vs. Evil & Moral right vs. Law...
We followed with a Call for Calm as we do every Wednesday… a pause to catch breath every Wednesday morning that helps us ‘re-set’ ourselves rather than continuing stress and tension at the roadside that would otherwise grow and grow without stop. That afternoon, circles of women sat to knit and crotchet in ever increasing tangles that police warned could be conceived as a ‘lock-on’ – as the event was described as a ‘yarn-on’ we were obviously unsurprised at police perception. More than 50 police were sent to dismantle us. Usually… scenes of police dismantling activists is seen as somewhat expected, with a clear sense of ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ put across in the media to make it all palatable – we were not palatable., We were CLEARLY not the ‘bad guys’ and this put the police in the position of manhandling the good guys… and it all got very messy and uncomfortable… but point made I think.

Community as a toxic hazard zone......
Toxic Thursday followed and that was all a bit ‘off plan’ but plans aren’t public so we’ll leave it at that and accept that not all things happen as intended… but sometimes, you get a great outcome anyway. The police clearly decided that ladies with yarn were bad enough… but once we put on those all-in-one hazard suits, the danger level seemed to raise along with police numbers and manhandling. It was all going pretty awfully as we were dragged, pushed and shoved across the road before bouncing back and enduring the same again… then a cheer went up and our female truck-surfer was in glorious place! I told her I would write my blog claiming it was the plan all along lol… it wasn’t, she was just magnificent at seizing a moment and stating “I feel safer up here than down there where they won’t let me protest.”

Bury this industry, not our children...
The final day of the Women’s Week was dark, sombre, genuine and beautiful in it’s raw, honest sadness. We allowed ourselves to genuinely grieve and mourn our own losses – knowing that our aim to prevent the awfulness of mourning for others in the future. I have never been more moved than I was by the warmth of of our union on this and all the other days… women who are not always able to be together, coming together in trust. I saw many reach a point of change – where the decision to truly DEFY kicked in and the police requests no longer had moral weight enough to be heeded.

We were gifted music, joy, kinship, unity and laughter on the Saturday night as Seize the Day gave up their time to bring us the energy to go on and the music to revive us.

Fracking is bloody awful… but the cure it is causing, is the most beautiful thing 

*Photo: Refracktion
**TOMORROW: Magid Magid comes to PNR
***We urgently need your help at the roadside EVERY Monday to Friday 7:30am to 6:30pm - all welcome and any time spared is hugely valued.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Open Letter to the Police at PNR...

Dear Police Officers,

What are we to do? How do you see this playing out? The reality that you as well as we (those acting to stop fracking) see is that this government wants hundreds of frack sites here in Lancashire and many thousands across the country – and equally clear is that residents throughout the UK will continue to act to stop this. It’s been 7 years now and we’re still here, still growing and not stopping. Our opposition in England is a part of a worldwide movement that has succeeded in getting this industry halted and we know we can succeed because of this… Scotland, Ireland North & South and Wales have set examples and England is the last place still pursuing fracking in the UK.

We are in the middle of an undeniable dilemma because none of us want to see our councils bankrupted by the cost of policing for fracking sites and none of us want to witness our communities denied proper levels of policing because you’re being used as truck escorts for fracking vehicles .. yet the government has seen fit to use officers like you, to enable a despised industry to be forced into communities without social license; what the hell did they think would be the outcome?

You can’t say it too loudly but we know that you have huge cause to consider this government in the same way we do; your numbers cut (20,000 less officers now than in 2010), your pension age raised and standards undeniably lowered due to cost cutting. Privatisation is nibbling away at your force in a stealth-like fashion similar to what is happening in education and the NHS …outsourcing forensics, prisoner processing and other departments and considering giving rights to arrest to private security firms. You are not treated with respect… and nor are we.

The UK is supposed to be a democracy and one of the better-off countries in the world and yet, our successful rejection of fracking through our Council was overturned and you have seen cuts you can’t fight against yet have to manage the fall-out from. So where we each stand and what we each suffer in our daily work (yes, I am working – my job is to protect my young as my first priority) is caused by the same people – who then set us against each other in an unwinnable scenario that is destined to bring serious harm.

I have witnessed tired officers grow angry and act dangerously …of course we get tired too and tempers fray and we make you more angered and aggressive by taking our frustration and anger out on you too. Meanwhile back in Westminster… lobbyists for the fracking industry and lobbyists for companies like SERCO and G4S, have the ear and favour of senior politicians. You and we go unheard and unheeded. When Theresa May finally leaves Downing Street, we will see more clearly which industries she got close to as we have with former Prime Minister Cameron this week; he spoke at a large Oil & Gas industry event in America… they like him and he is well rewarded for his work with them. It’s clear that he made these connections during his time in power and easy enough to work out what contracts, laws and actions led to the positive relationship.

Yesterday an Officer used what I assume is usual force in getting someone out of the way in an incident… the only thing is, the person thrown wasn’t a dangerous criminal, drunk aggressor or violent thug – it was a small woman and she flew further than the Officer judged. Cath landed in the path of an oncoming vehicle that swerved instantly and only missed causing serious harm or death by a moment. Today, a respected elder witnessed more rough handling by the police and broke down. She was genuinely shocked and said in a tone of absolute disbelief “I HATE THE POLICE!”. She is a warm, kind and gentle woman who like so many of us – never imagined life could look this ugly. We paid taxes, voted, believed we lived in a fair country and that if danger came… there were safeguards in place to call upon and before the reality kicks in along with the sadness and anger, we break with the realisation of truth. The government is responsible for this and you, like us are bearing the pain.

A community’s police force is there for public safety and we are unsafe every day because of a dangerous industry – yet you are tasked with protecting that industry’s metal trucks and equipment… from soft-fleshed people – many of whom are women over the age of 50 for goodness sakes.

What is right, lawful, just or fair about this picture?

We are nearly too far down this path to repair and something serious must happen to change this situation because your force and our residents are at breaking point and that’s with just ONE frack site… they want hundreds. Government and industry will aim to injunct everything they can but we’ll just nudge up next to the edge of every injunction or we’ll go to the places the equipment sets off from and we will not stop because we can’t. What would it take for you to move out of the way of a child and let danger come to them? That’s what drives us and keeps us in this truly awful situation… we CAN’T go till the frackers do.

The solution? No bloody idea – but I suggest it starts with a conversation within the police force and that there needs to be a forcing of the government to see the truth of the danger that is growing on the streets that surround a fracking site in Lancashire.