Barton Moss GMP brutality - Salford TAU arrest of Vanda. Photo: Jason Smalley / Salford Star.
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Police attack Barton Moss anti-fracking protestors
16th February 2014
After anti-fracking protestors scored an important legal victory at Barton Moss, Manchester Police responded with outright violence and intimidation. The message was clear: 'Never mind the Courts and Judges. We are are the law.'
This is political policing, re-enforced with overt aggression - what took place today appears to be political policing in favour of a corporate agenda.
After the District Judge had declared Barton Moss Road a public footpath (see here), and the successful blockade of the iGas delivery lorries on Thursday (see here), today came the brutal backlash from Greater Manchester Police and its Tactical Aid Unit (TAU).
This morning, a convoy of lorries delivering to the iGas exploratory drilling site arrived as notices were posted on cars and handed out to the public declaring ...
To Whom It May Concern
Please note that Barton Moss Road the A57 to Tunnel Farm is owned by Manchester Ship Canal Developments Limited and beyond that point by Peel Investments North Ltd and there is no right to occupy Barton Moss Road without the consent of the owners.
The only public right over Barton Moss Road is a footpath for pedestrians any persons occupying or possessing Barton Moss Road are doing so as trespassers without the consent of the owners and should cease such occupation.
Unsigned ... who published it?
The notice had no headed notepaper or signature, but appeared to be a manoeuvre in the face of the GMP's court defeat last Thursday, to arrest anyone not complying with the notice for "aggravated trespass". Greater Manchester Police constantly warned people of this throughout the day.
Peel Holdings, or the Peel Group, not only own Barton Moss Road but all the fields surrounding it, including the iGas drilling site, and Barton Airport where the police are based during operations, drawing rent off all of them.
It now appears that the company - stuffed with vested interests - is preparing to evict anti-fracking campaigners.
All hell broke loose
As the lorry convoy approached the entrance to the iGas site this morning, accompanied by huge numbers of police, all hell broke loose with Tactical Aid Unit officers literally running riot according to eye witnesses ...
"While there was a protector on the roof of one of the wagons, a police officer said one of the guys had called him 'a dickhead', so they read him his rights and the police went into the field to arrest him, pushed him to the floor and handcuffed him", says photographer Jason Smalley
"Two other protectors were trying to protect him so they got chased and pushed to the floor.
"I was shooting a video of it, and I got pushed really hard onto the floor. They said they thought I was going to assault the officer ... The police were being really aggressive, there was a woman fitting in the field while they were handcuffing her ... "
They tried to strangle her
Another eye witness, Diane Steels, says ... "Vanda is a mother of four, they tried to strangle her and they were just hitting everybody. It was chaos... horrendous once the Tactical Aid Unit had come in. I was scared. Everyone was scared. We were just running because they were chasing everyone.
" ... Earlier, they pushed us and bullied us down the road. They have damaged my knee, they were just kicking us in the back of the legs so we couldn't physically walk any faster, and then it kicked off in the field because someone swore and it escalated from there."
Jason's photos show a police officer with his hands around Vanda's neck, then handcuffing her and then, with another officer, dragging her through the field. The end of his video clearly shows that she is having a fit (see the video on YouTube - click here).
Legal observers barred from 'crime scene'
While this was happening, police officers had sealed off Barton Moss Road from the public, declaring it a "crime scene". As well as the public and the Salford Star reporter, Lindsay, an impartial legal observer, was also prevented from having access ...
"I got a call from the Camp to come because of aggressive policing by Greater Manchester Police Tactical Aid Unit" said Lindsay.
"I've been prevented from doing my job as an impartial legal observer. I'm not part of this protest, I just make statements of arrest in case the arrestees need a witness statement to assist them with any future court cases or action. They have refused my entry onto a public footpath."
By the time the public footpath was open and people made their way to the iGas site entrance, Vanda was still lying on the floor with no ambulance in sight and even one of the protectors, who was a trained nurse, was refused access to tend her ... "I'm disgusted", she said.
"We called an ambulance and there wasn't one available", a Police Liaison Officer told the Salford Star. "We are not willing to move her and can't go into the circumstances of that. We are waiting for the ambulance to come and they will take control of the situation."
After 45 minutes an ambulance arrived and took her to Salford Royal Hospital, where, we understand, she was "de-arrested".
Political policing, re-enforced with overt aggression
On the scene was the Camp's lead solicitor, Simon Pook of Robert Lizar Solicitors, who is also a legal observer:
"What I have witnessed today at Barton Moss has confirmed my greatest fear ... A fear that Greater Manchester Police appear to have discarded the European Convention of Human Rights into the gutter, and replaced it with political policing, re-enforced with overt aggression."
"My experience there today caused me to be concerned for my own safety, based on my observations and interactions of Greater Manchester Police. I am firmly of the view that what took place today appears to be political policing in favour of a corporate agenda.
I call on GMP and the Police and Crime Commissioner to tell the public: Why?"
UN - strong representations made to UK Government
Speaking of the police closing off Barton Moss Road to reporters and legal observers he added that he intends to contact the United Nations about the policing of Barton Moss.
"The United Nations Special Rapporteur of peaceful protest has made strong representation to the UK Government in regards to not allowing legal observers to come through and observe the police in an individual capacity" he explained.
"The UK government said they would consider that report, which was produced in July 2013. From what I've seen today that doesn't seem to be the case.
"I'm happy to update the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations in regards to a full report on Barton Moss and the GMP conduct and that's something that I intend to do."
This article was first published by the Salford Star, which has been diligent in reporting the Barton Moss protests fairly and impartially since the beginning of the demonstrations. Also on the page, more photos and reader comments.
Main photo: Jason Smalley
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