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Green MP Caroline Lucas arrested in Balcombe anti-fracking protest

Fiona Harvey & Peter Walker

20th August 2013

The UK's only Green party MP was arrested yesterday along with dozens of anti-fracking protesters in a 'day of action' across the UK

People are left with very little option but to take peaceful, non-violent direct action

Hundreds of activists blockaded the Balcombe oil drilling site in Sussex owned by the fracking company Cuadrilla, as well as its Lichfield headquarters and the offices of its PR firm in London.

Demonstrators hung banners at the country home of the Conservative Lord Howells, who stirred controversy by suggesting the "desolate" north should be fracked, and attempted to put up a small wind turbine at the home of Tory MP Francis Maude, whose constituency includes Balcombe.

Amid accusations of "heavy-handed" policing, protesters at Balcombe blocked part of the site road but were driven back by police. Sussex police did not comment, or confirm the number of arrests.

Lucas said she joined the protest to make up for the "democratic deficit" that was allowing corporate oil and gas interests to trump the concerns of ordinary people. A Guardian poll last week found 40% of people opposed fracking in their area, with 40% in support.

The MP for Brighton Pavilion said: "Along with everyone else who took action today, I'm trying to stop a process which could cause enormous damage for decades to come. People today, myself included, took peaceful non-violent direct action only after exhausting every other means of protest available to us. Despite the opposition to fracking being abundantly clear, the government has completely ignored the views of those they are supposed to represent. When the democratic deficit is so enormous, people are left with very little option but to take peaceful, non-violent direct action."

The Department of Energy and Climate Change did not respond to requests for comment on the protests.

Cuadrilla said: "We condemn all illegal direct actions against our people and operations. What we are doing is legal, approved, and safe, and shale gas is essential to improve our energy security, heat our homes, and create jobs and growth. Cuadrilla is rightly held accountable for complying with multiple planning and environmental permits and conditions, which we have met and will continue to meet."

With thousands of people descending on the Reclaim the Power camp at Balcombe, which started yesterday, this is by far the biggest anti-fracking demonstration ever to take place in the UK, and one of the biggest environmental demonstrations for years.

The Ecologist is a member of the Guardian's Environment Network article swap.

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