- Posted March 30, 2014 by
Manchester, United Kingdom
MI5, GMP and the Battle of Barton Moss
“The mindset of violence within Greater Manchester Police has to come from the very top, from Peter Fahy. He must be instructing his officers to use violence against peaceful protesters.” – Dr Steven Peers, legal observer of Barton Moss Protection Camp.
“Every officer here today is responsible for their own actions.” – PLO Officer at the scene.
...9AM, the trucks roll in, with RADIOACTIVE stickers and bulky drilling equipment... a placid flock of environmental activists gathers in their path... Police swoop in forming a barricade across the bumper... advancing on the crowd... jostling them along the footpath to megaphone heckles and one sombre drum... Cameras light up the leyline like a masochist’s catwalk...
Over 120 arrests have been made so far at the daily Barton Moss anti-fracking protests, and the protesters' solicitor, Simon Pook, feels that Greater Manchester Police is targeting key members of the group:
“You can clearly see them being pointed at by the chief officer at the back of the police line, then they are singled out for arrest. The officers walk up to them, take hold of them, pull them to the ground and they’re arrested. But, for what is the arrest?”
The camp is relatively small - about 30 demonstrators at any one time – yet the police presence has cost over £700,000, and additional funding has been requested from the Home Office to deal with the peaceful protests. In an internal meeting, a GMP Counter-Terrorism Instructor referred to the protesters as “borderline extremists” and “economic terrorists”. Mr Pook said:
“I have seen the police dossier containing photographs and written summaries of the persons involved in other environmental campaigns around the country, and when these people arrive at a new environmental site they will be arrested again.”
Mr Pook said the dossier has led to at least four arrests at Barton Moss, and is indicative of involvement from a higher plane of influence:
“It raises the question, is this dossier being shared nationally? If it is then we have to ask, Is there a national intelligence service that deals with the gathering of information and intelligence? And the answer is, Yes there is... it’s MI5.”
He said MI5 may consider the protests to be a matter of ‘national security’, as dwindling fuel resources pose a very real threat to public order in a country comparatively devoid of renewable alternatives. Mr Pook is currently drafting a detailed dossier for consideration by Maina Kiai, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, as he feels the UK Government has not obligated its UN commitments.
Meanwhile, two miles down the road, a gang of thieves tunnelled 50 feet to steal £86 grand from Tesco, “The cops came to hassle us about it” a bedraggled protester told me later at the camp, “looking for people covered in soil.”
The GMP remains strangely quiet on the matter, as they have about the burning car found outside their headquarters. ”I raised concerns about their lack of fire precautions, and sought reassurance that my car would be safe in their car park” said Dr Steven Peers, who was controversially arrested during the protests. In the end the public were left to extinguish the vehicle blaze.
Dr Peers is a legal observer and citizen journalist who appears in the dossier, mislabelled ‘Protester’. He was arrested at Barton Moss on a trumped-up drink driving charge, but the case was later dropped due to insufficient evidence. He now intends to take legal action against the GMP. He said:
“GMP are a corporation, and above all else they represent corporate interests. Now they’re prepared to use physical violence to force a policy through, and it’s clear that their corporate attitude far and above outweighs any oath of protecting people’s human rights.”
(The video of Dr Peers’ contentious arrest can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gxI4ToNKGQ & If you were wondering, you’ll need to file a Section 9 to admit video footage into a UK court. More info here: https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/d_to_g/evidence_admiting_evidence_under_the_cja/#a03 )
The brutal police tactics at the Moss have been widely reported, but when the supposedly ‘Independent’ Police Complaints Commission arrived to assess police conduct, they did so under private police escort. As did the BBC in fact, whose corporate ties with drilling contract proprietor Peel Group were raised internally last year:
“The BBC needs to demonstrate to the BBC Trust that it has assessed the potential risks of the Peel Group having a dominant position at its Salford site and taken appropriate steps to address them. It should also make clear...that it expects companies with which it contracts to pay their fair share of tax.”
- The BBC's move to Salford - Public Accounts
Committee, Conclusions and Recommendations.
Back on the Moss, there’s growing concern among the campers that the repeated collisions with police are distracting from the grave environmental issues at stake, as the protesters’ grievances lead many to up-camp and demonstrate directly outside Swinton Police station.
It seems the conflict will only end when the police operations become too costly, or the protesters’ spirits are crushed. But if anything they’re spurred on by the police violence against them, and many are committed to continuing the campaign on a long term basis, even if the drilling site is given the full go-ahead from Westminster.
Whatever the successes of the campaign may be, it has highlighted serious concerns over the priorities and agenda of the GMP and MI5 - and thrown a litany of legal battles their way.
Words by Longtom Richardson.
Image by Jason Smalley.