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Police take tougher stance on Balcombe protesters after tripod protest closes road
Police have launched a crackdown on Balcombe protesters after a campaigner held up the road for more than five hours yesterday.
The “completely unacceptable” act – which saw a man, named only as Jamie, scale a 15ft high tripod in the middle of the 60mph road – sparked police to issue a Section 14 order, under the Public Order Act 1986, which tells protesters where they may assemble.
If they do not comply with the order or incite another person to disobey it, they will have committed an offence and could be arrested.
Full details of where they are banned from assembling – believed to include London Road, which has been the centre of fracking protests – were not released last night.
The man clambered up the tripod at 8.10am and Sussex Police said he threatened to urinate on officers after super-gluing himself to the structure.
Police officers said the hold-up meant about 60 children were delayed for their first day at school and a distraught mother was unable to reach her daughter at school after she suffered a seizure.
The man was taken down by officers at 1.50pm.
It is the first time such an order has been issued at the Balcombe site, where protesters have gathered for more than 40 days.
They are objecting to Cuadrilla’s exploratory drilling of the site, as there are fears it may lead to the controversial process of fracking.
The Home Office said the order could be put in place “to prevent serious public disorder, serious criminal damage or serious disruption to the life of the community”.
Speaking yesterday Superintendent Lawrence Hobbs said the order was issued in response to an “increase in the number of those intent on criminal or anti-social behaviour” which is “endangering everyone at the site and having a massive impact on the Balcombe community”.
He added: “This is unacceptable and we have now taken action to define an area where peaceful protest will be facilitated today.”
No campaigners from fracking groups were available for comment yesterday.
But commenting on the road block on social media, a group called Ifthetrees said: “Jamie is now up a tripod blocking the whole road. It’s a lovely sight."
“Class action this morning closes road, hero still up there. This is just the beginning… believe it.”
Three people were in custody last night including a 29-year-old man, no address given, arrested on suspicion of obstructing a police officer and an offence under Section 241 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act.
A 26-year-old man, no address given, was arrested on suspicion of breach of the Section 14 order shortly after it was put in place, having ignored advice from police.
A 44-year-old woman from Burgess Hill who ignored directions to stop at the road closure on London Road, Balcombe, was arrested on suspicion of failing to stop for police.
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