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Issue #1805      November 29, 2017

Frack fight

BRITAIN: Efforts to stifle protests against controversial fracking energy exploitation were reinforced after a judge decided to extend a court injunction against obstruction and trespass near sites. The High Court decided to extend an existing injunction against protesters in favour of energy extraction firm Ineos, prompting concerns that “the right to protest is under threat.”

Judge Mr Justice Morgan made an interim order against “persons unknown” and two named individuals in September. Lawyers representing environmental campaigners in the latest hearing said the injunction was both “unprecedented” and “draconian” and had urged the judge to discharge it.

Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley told the Morning Star after the hearing: “This ruling places the right to protest under threat. Ineos have won a technical battle but they are on the wrong side of history and will not win the war.

“I have visited fracking sites across the country. I have seen the commitment, the energy, and the passion of those who know that fracking is bad for their communities and their country. Their opposition to fracking will never be silenced and the campaign for a future that’s clean and green will win out in the end.”

Environmental campaigner Joe Boyd, who challenged the injunction, argued that it was unlawful as it had a substantial impact on the rights of those wishing to protest against fracking.

He argued that Ineos “did not produce the evidence justifying such a broad court order.”

Ineos Shale, which is involved in exploratory work in the East Midlands, said the order was to “prohibit unlawful activities on private and public land,” not to “injunct lawful activity.” Leigh Day lawyer Rosa Curling, representing Mr Boyd, said: “Free speech is at the heart of any democracy.

“This case is about the right to protest, a right which has always been, and must continue to be, a fundamental aspect of peaceful political action in our society.

“Without the right to protest effectively, the ability of citizens to peacefully challenge injustices will be severely curtailed.”

And Network for Police Monitoring co-ordinator Kevin Blowe said: “The intervention by two campaigners has successfully removed an order against alleged harassment from the previous interim injunction, because the judge said Ineos had failed to demonstrate there was any need for it despite submitting over 1,500 pages of evidence taken from individual’s Facebook pages.

“However, the rest of the judgement is extremely worrying, because it may potentially threaten hundreds of people wishing to exercise their right to protest against drilling in their local communities.”

As reported in the Morning Star, action against anti-fracking campaigners has included the use of anti-union laws against protesters, and increasingly heavy-handed police tactics.

Morning Star

Next article – Venezuela pushes back

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