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Balcombe protesters accuse Sussex Police of using violent tactics
8:23am Wednesday 21st August 2013 in News
The Balcombe anti-fracking campaign lost its festival feel yesterday as protesters accused the police of violent tactics while hardcore activists pledged to stay in Balcombe “to the bitter end” if necessary.
Campaigners have complained to Sussex Police after TV footage was broadcast of a protester apparently being knelt on by an officer while being arrested at Balcombe.
Scores of TV viewers complained about aggressive policing after the man’s arrest was shown on BBC News.
The incident happened on Monday when Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and her son were also arrested on suspicion of obstructing the highway under section 14 of the Public Order Act.
In addition, the officer involved did not appear to be wearing epaulettes showing his ID shoulder number, which is against police rules.
Offences The second day of ‘mass civil disobedience’, as promised by campaigners, passed by relatively peacefully yesterday with just three arrests, two of which were from offences relating to Monday’s fracas.
Hundreds of people have left the site since the weekend, but those who remain insist that the only time they will go is when energy firm Cuadrilla moves out of the site.
Frances Leader, 61, treasurer of the Balcombe Community Protection Company, said: “We’re not leaving until it’s finished, until it’s gone, and if it moves from here to another site then so will we. We’ll be here to the bitter end.”
Cuadrilla has said drilling will continue today following the weekend’s delays.
Roland Ravenhill, 45, from Haywards Heath, who was at the camp on Monday, said: “There’s planning permission for Cuadrilla until the end of September at the moment so I think there will definitely be protests up until then and then it all lies on whether or not they are granted further permission to drill.”
Award-winning Emmerdale actress Leah Bracknell, 49, showed up at the site yesterday and helped carry panels of wood across the camp to the makeshift toilet and shower areas.
She said: “It’s not about Balcombe being in our back yard – the world is our back yard.
“It’s about where do you stop. It can happen anywhere and it will unless people express an opinion.”
Monday’s controversial arrest, which was shared on Facebook and Twitter and commented on many times, showed a man lying on the ground.
A police officer – it is not clear if he is from Sussex – leans on him as people take photographs.
No Dash for Gas said they had since lodged a complaint with Sussex Police, although the force said it had not received it.
The campaign group said the complaint stated: “The citizen in question was part of a peaceful protest to create dialogue around the issue of fracking in the UK.
“As a result of his attendance he was violently arrested, wres- tled to the floor, his head pushed into the ground by an officer’s hands and knees, whilst the officer in question was not wearing epaulettes with an ID number.
“There is no question that excessive force was used.
“We request the officer in question is immediately suspended pending a full public and independent enquiry into both his individual conduct and the tactics used on the entire operation, which saw many peaceful protesters violently arrested.”
Following the death of newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests in London, the Metropolitan Police said that epaulettes with identifying numbers “must be worn and must be correct and visible at all times”.
Superintendent Lawrence Hobbs said: “I have seen the video footage of the arrest and it is clear that one of the offi- cers’ epaulettes are missing.
“We have identified the officer and will be seeking full clarification of the circumstances leading to them not appearing to have clear identification.
“The circumstances of every arrest have been rigorously recorded and we know which officers were involved in every one. If there are any complaints about any police action in connection with this operation, they will be fully investigated.
"That said, I have been heartened by the many messages of support about our overall policing style over the last few weeks, including from many local residents and some of the protesters themselves.”
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