Posted on 23 February 2016
In a collaboration between the University of York’s Centre for Urban Research (CURB) and LJMU’s Centre for the Study of Crime, Criminalisation and Social Exclusion (CCSE), researchers investigated the policing of Barton Moss Community Protection Camp in Salford, Greater Manchester.
From November 2013 to April 2014, the camp promoted a campaign of peaceful protest to raise awareness of the potential environmental dangers of exploratory hydraulic fracturing (fracking) taking place in the area. Protest activities included ‘slow walking’ in front of vehicles accessing the site and other forms of non-violent direct action, as well as rallies, hosting music events, and family days.
Amid conflicting media accounts of violence attributed to both protestors and Greater Manchester Police (GMP), researchers at York and LJMU made a series of visits to the camp, conducted interviews with camp residents and analysed figures from ongoing criminal justice cases of those arrested.
The research aimed to provide a rare insight into the experiences of anti-fracking protesters. The report is grounded in the experiences of camp residents and supporters, and the researchers concluded that independence from GMP in this research was essential to their gaining access to the camp and the lawyers involved in the ongoing cases.
Documenting concerns about the nature, function and proportionality of the policing operation at the camp, and the deployment of policing methods, the peer-reviewed report provides a range of findings and recommendations. These include:
Dr Joanna Gilmore, Lecturer at the York Law School and a co-author of the report, said: “Our research provides a unique insight into the experiences of anti-fracking protesters – whose voices have often been excluded from academic research and official policing policy.
“The report highlights a number of concerns about the proportionality of the policing operation at Barton Moss, drawing on testimonies provided by camp residents and those involved in direct action. Given the centrality of the right to protest in a liberal democracy, and that public opposition to fracking continues to be a live issue in the UK, it is in the public interest that these concerns are investigated thoroughly and transparently.”
Dr Will Jackson, Lecturer in Criminology at LJMU and co-author of the report, said: “Our findings raise important questions about environmental regulation, corporate accountability, police powers and the future of legal aid. Ultimately, we hope that this research will help to facilitate a ‘culture of learning’ – to inform the ways in which activists engage in future protests, and also inform the way official bodies and media organisations monitor the policing of protests.”
Dr Helen Monk, Lecturer in Criminology at LJMU and co-author of the report, added: “The voices of protesters are central in this report and they raise a series of important questions about the way in which opposition to fracking is being responded to in the UK. The findings will hopefully contribute to both debates about the policing of protest, and about the ways in which local communities are able to have their say on fracking.”