Shocking Sentences on Anti-Fracking Protesters
Simon Rosco Blevins and Richard Roberts were each sentenced to 16 months imprisonment at Preston Crown Court on Wednesday 26th September for taking part in a peaceful protest against fracking. Richard Loizou got 15 months for the same offence.
They were convicted of public nuisance. The activists climbed on fracking lorries at a site near Blackpool to stop them. They remained there in defiant protest for between 45 and 84 hours.
Justifying these savage sentences, judge Altham declared: “Given the disruption caused in this case, only immediate custody can achieve sufficient punishment.” He added that the protesters were also likely to re-offend because “each of them remains motivated by unswerving confidence that they are right”.
The defendants remain defiant. Blevins declared: “This won’t break us, we will come out stronger...we refuse to be victimised by this. The real victims will be future generations suffering preventable disasters caused by climate change... Our friends and fellow campaigners outside will continue to fight for a ban on fracking and for a just transition to a renewable and democratically owned energy system.”
The LRC supports the aims of the anti-fracking movement. The main beneficiary of this ruling is drilling firm Cuadrilla. Lancashire County Council rejected their application to frack, but was overruled by the Tory government. It seems big money is at work here and, as Bob Dylan said, “money doesn’t talk, it swears.”
Defence counsel for the activists maintained that this was the first case of imprisonment since 1932 when Benny Rothman and his comrades were sent to jail after the Kinder Scout mass trespass. The trespassers were vindicated when the Peak District in Derbyshire became a National Park under the post-War Labour government. Rothman and co. can be regarded as founders of the ‘right to roam’ movement.
A letter in the Guardian on September 28th reminds us that this soundbite is actually wrong. In 1993 Twyford Down protesters were jailed. In any event it is monstrous that peaceful environmental protesters are treated in this way.
The LRC agrees that climate change is happening and that is probably the most pressing danger to the survival of humanity on earth.
Blevins, Roberts and Loizou have done more than their bit. We must press for their earliest release. As a Greenpeace commentator summed up: “It’s a strange society that massively rewards those responsible for causing more climate change while putting those trying to stop it in jail.”
Trade Unionists Open Letter in solidarity with the jailed anti-Fracking activists. Please sign and circulate.
Please find the link to the Trade Union open letter in solidarity with the jailed anti-Fracking Free and initial signatories. Please sign and circulate widely. The letter is open to all individual trade unionists as well as office holders and branches.
Text and Initial Signatories on Trade Union Open Letter in Solidarity with Jailed Anti-Fracking Activists.
As trade unionists, we the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the four non-violent anti-fracking activists who have been convicted of 'causing a public nuisance', three of whom are now serving custodial sentences. We strongly condemn this judgement and the dangerous precedent it sets for the right to protest and take non-violent direct action against threats to the climate and the environment.
These are by far the longest prison sentences imposed on activists defending the environment since those jailed for the Mass Trespass in 1932. It can only be seen as politically motivated in support of a government that has shown it is prepared to ride roughshod over the democratic rights of citizens to achieve an end for which it has no popular support.
This is a clear example of the state acting in the interests of big business in the face of opposition to fracking by the community at Preston New Road, and across the UK more widely. It is important to recall the concerns raised by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Assembly in his report in 2016 regarding the "collusion between law enforcement authorities and private companies" in relation to fracking protests.
At the TUC Congress in 2018, the trade union movement called for a moratorium on fracking in England which has already been stopped in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Many of us believe it should be banned in full. There is no safe fracking. It is not safe for the environment, water supplies, citizens or workers, or in addressing climate change concerns.
Trade unionists have long seen their legitimate rights oppressed with the use of force, and are proud to support of our sisters and brothers taking a stand against injustice. The treatment of striking miners at the so called 'Battle of Orgreave' remains a potent symbol of the underhand tactics of the state against the working class for which justice is still being sought over thirty years later.
We need investment in a publicly owned and democratically controlled energy system, which can oversee the transition to renewable energy. A transition that is just by providing social protections for workers, and creates unionised sustainable jobs across all sectors as we develop a new zero carbon economy.
We stand in solidarity with the imprisoned anti - Fracking activists and support the call for a judicial review of this absurdly harsh sentence, and an inquiry into the wider attacks on the right to protest and freedom of assembly.