Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
“Well behaved women seldom make history”
Frack Fighters Lock the Gate
This time last week, myself and five other daring doers, several of whom are fellow Rushers (see who you can spot!) and a brilliant Sussex local, used a sturdy old fire engine to block the entrance to Cuadrilla’s oil and gas drilling operation in Balcombe.
Smiling and waving at the workers who we hoped to give a sunny day off, we became Frack Fighters with one mission: to block Cuadrilla’s site and stop fracking for as long as possible.
In case you’ve been sleeping, Balcombe is the once quiet West Sussex village now at the mercy of thirsty frackers Cuadrilla, the American oil and gas exploration company hoping to profit hugely from George Osborne’s much talked up ‘shale gas revolution’. They caused an earthquake drilling near Blackpool in Lancashire last year.
All this Government gassing and oil-driven machismo continues despite the presence of an ever-growing opposition and protest camp in Balcombe. There is huge support from locals there with the recent announcement that 85% of villagers surveyed are against fracking in the area.
There are a lot of reasons to stand against fracking. Impacts of fracking and the exploitation of unconventional oil and gas range from groundwater contamination and huge water usage, to the industrialisation of vast swathes of the countryside. Watch this lovely animation Doreen’s Story which fully illustrates such impacts. This is all on top of the vast amounts of energy used to extract, transport and make use of such unconventionals, as well as the financial cost of investing in shale which will mean renewable alternatives continue to be sidelined.
On the way…
Snaking through early morning rural Sussex, adrenaline and nerves coursing through our bodies, we passed many a beautiful village and ancient woodland on the way to Balcombe. You couldn’t imagine a setting less suited to the paraphernalia of the oil and gas industry.
Onwards and still no one had stopped us. Past the village. Past the sleeping camp. Until we pulled to a stop. Right in front of the entrance to Cuadrilla’s site.
Bemused police officers looked on as the two brave rooftop Frack Fighters (Andrew and Lu?) leapt up, banner in hand. So began our six hour blockade of the fracking site. The six of us were agreed on staying for as long as possible to stop Cuadrilla’s destructive drilling. We were variously attached to the friendly fire engine and well stocked with provisions for a few days.
The Frack Fighters stay was as tumultuous as it was glorious. To summarize, I will outline a timeline of events as I saw them from the inside of a fire engine.
A brief timeline:
20 minutes: Twitter shuts down our Frack Fighters account #queserasera
1 hour on: we speak to journalists and media, friends and supporters from the camp, and not so persuasive police officers from the roof and window.
Intermittently: we eat sandwiches and drink water
4 – 6 hours: unfortunately, Cuadrilla and the police want us removed. A tow truck arrived to remove the fire engine. Cue several hours of d-lock removal (the Kryptonite gold-rated lock was stubbornest) and the erection of a stagey looking scaffold tower to reach the roof.
And then there were two…
Sat in the baking heat, our arms linked, myself and Deborah sat patiently as the fire engine was winched up to be towed away. We had witnessed fellow Frack Fighters carried off one-by-one to the chants of ‘hero, hero’. We were eventually towed arms still linked.
In spite of the sweat and slight discomfort, I felt immensely proud to have used my body and soul to defend Balcombe against the poisonous activity of Cuadrilla. It was an honour to serve with the Frack Fighters and I only wish wecould have been there for longer.
Cuadrilla with the support of Sussex Police are continuing to drill at the site. Each day the camp grows and people are more convinced than ever that this must stop now. Keep up to date with camp activities by following @frack_off on Twitter or visiting the Great Gas Gala website.
More exciting news, No Dash for Gas have relocated their planned Reclaim the Power camp to Balcombe.
From Friday 16th to Wednesday 21st August, the camp will bring together a wide range of groups and individuals from across environmental, economic and social justice networks to discuss ideas, strengthen links, and share skills in direct action and civil disobedience to take action against the Cuadrilla site. Get involved and fight fracking!