Sunday, 4 December 2016

Houses of Correction... what gets corrected?

Yesterday was a fantastic day spent in Lancaster with Nanas at LUSH, raising awareness and getting an amazing response from people; so different than just a few years ago when hardly anyone had heard of fracking, today the support was easy and instant. A good day too to have been away from more personal concerns.

Today... a head full of confusion, words in transcripts that don’t match up with what me and others thought we understood in court, hindsight offering a million questions about what I could/should have perhaps done, wonderings about decisions taken and what caused me to make them, long phone calls and emails trying to track all that happened, concerns for the wellbeing of dear friends and family who are feeling the pressure for me and thankfully, a whole lot of wonderful warmth and support from our movement to get me through... is how things are going as the next appearance in court is this coming Friday for the case concerning a 3-week occupation of a proposed fracking field in 2014.

I would normally be putting dates for the nativity plays of all the little ones in my calendar at this family-busy time of year… but instead there’s a big line through 14 days of December (9th to 23rd) that is reserved with the word “incarceration?” Everyone in this campaign knows all too well,  how much it steals from us – not just the precious time but more importantly the theft of happy head-space, frivolity and lighter moods. BUT… in light of what many have gone through at the camps here, the scenes at Standing Rock in Dakota and the lengthy imprisonments, penalties and deaths of activists in Latin America and elsewhere… I know it could be far worse.

Of course I just wish this court case wasn't happening. I expect there were a multitude of other ways to have handled it and maybe ended up with other outcomes...  I've received messages and questions like: should I have let my name go forward, could there have been an appeal, did I know what I was doing… as the answer to the last question is no, not fully, the others can't really be answered by a simple yes or no. Acting in defence and opposition to the drilling company Cuadrilla has been a genuinely unique experience full of ups and downs, packed with unknowns, mostly done on gut feeling and opportunity seizing - everything that happens in this campaign is a new and unknown experience, nothing prepares you for it and yes… I know I don’t always get it right.

I put my name forward only because I believed there was danger if I didn’t. I was told that the case would progress without input from those who took the action if no-one stepped up and the fear if this happened – was we could not know who might be implicated (the documents contained clear images of many at the camp) or if the truth would be told. At the time they were trying to claim a cow had died, there were camps in a field we’d never visited and that a milk yield had been impacted – all of this was provably untrue …if contested.

Right now this case for me is about the immorality and misuse of the legal system by those with power and money. To run up legal bills in excess of £55,000 for the 'eviction' of an empty field is clearly motivated by something other than 'justice'. To apply these costs against a person who is acting out of obligation to protect their young, is callous, bullying and I believe done in order to deter other residents from opposing this government-backed industry. I have spent five years researching the processes and impacts of the unconventional energy business and am certain that it is seriously damaging to the health, well-being and future of our children; to tell me to stand back and let this happen, is to tell me to be negligent of my responsibilities.

Since getting involved in this campaign, I have spoken with countless residents in communities where the damage from fracking is already happening in America, Australia and Canada - scoured as much as I can of the more than 900+ peer-reviewed studies, lobbied MPs. informed Councillors, attended hundreds of meetings including those put on by the industry itself and worked within my community and throughout the country and conclude that our government is either incompetent or criminal... and yet it is activists/campaigners who end up in court. 

The action of camping for 3-weeks in a field (that was not in use for farming but had been leased to Cuadrilla in readiness/expectation of winning planning for a drill site) was taken when we became aware that many of the local residents, particularly the elderly had no idea just how close the site was to their homes. Our action raised awareness, provided a place to come and discuss concerns, encouraged an incredible community to pull together and all in all, achieved everything we set out to do. When we left (on the date we had publicly said we would), we finger-tip searched the field and informed the landowner, police, drilling company and media... the 'eviction' the following day ran up extortionate legal bills that would inevitably (deliberately?) cause residents to be afraid of objecting.

There is NO option other than to see this through – money could possibly be found but I reject that as an option as it would mean next time and next time and next time for each of us and we will never be able to raise funds enough for all (especially those with smaller networks) and it would be to accept that this misuse of our legal system is in any way fit to be called 'justice'. It’s an ugly situation to be in but does shine a light on this aspect that must have plagued activists forever.

There is also the matter of how distant I feel from these processes - how removed from insider knowledge - the lack of higher education and legal training puts people at a huge disadvantage when dealing with a legal case. At times when I did briefly have a lawyer, they worked hard to reduce the impact on me as that is their role but I felt like a product not a participant... just flowing along a well-worn conveyor belt. I was reminded that this is the law and this is the case and this is how it works.

I know that saying no to paying can get me up to 2 weeks in prison for 'contempt of court' and after that... I'm told they could keep running this process, incurring higher costs and greater sentences. Where is 'justice' in this story? How will any of this 'correct' my behaviour? What in the end is achieved? It's only the exercise of power that makes people realise how little they have - and how desperately we need each other, in order to have a chance.

Naturally I have fears over what's to come but as I’m acting out of my deepest obligation (to protect the young), there truly is nothing that can be done to make me step off this path and let this dangerous industry pass. Nor am I willing to concede that this industry can use its power and wealth to wield our justice system like a weapon against opposition and to allow harm to come to the children of my community...  I sense I am between a rock and a hard place and there is no way out until the government sees sense or genuine justice prevails. May be a bit of a *wait xxx

*about the wait:
Since the start, innumerable, incredible people have worked on my behalf – with and without my awareness of it. Support in comments, messages, hugs and words of understanding as well as memes, posts, event creation, letters to press , industry and government, replies on press articles, press releases, offers of help and advice, sofas to sleep on, kind financial help, co-ordination of group-wide responses and so much more – has nourished and sustained me through this and sincerely, almost made it all worth it. 

What adversity does to good people witnessing it, is to draw out the very best that they are and being amongst them – the best unknown in this whole thing. Thank you.

Video from last court appearance... hashtags this time: #IAmTinaToo #BankruptCuadrilla

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