Sunday, 27 May 2018

My First Lock-on...


Glancing from the ground I caught sight of Maria on a chair, her face drizzled with tears and sadness as she apologised for letting us all down… I cried too that any of us was going through this at all and that such an honourable woman could imagine she had let anyone down… she’d been bloody amazing, enduring over 9 hours locked-on. The absurdity of what we were in the middle of, also struck me…

A caravan (but “this was no ordinary caravan… this was an M&S caravan” not quite the right initials but you get my drift) had been parked dead-centre of the entrance to the fracking site on PNR (Preston New Road) at 2:10 am Tuesday 22 May 2018, inside it were 5 individuals locked-on to various devices in every position possible in a little caravan. Welded metal grids were behind the plastic windows with their unassuming maroon curtains and the door was half welded shut/half barricaded with metal.

Outside the caravan, a further 2 individuals had their arms locked on to devices that connected to devices and others within the caravan… as the police peeked and peeled back bits, it was clear that even puzzle-professionals would have scratched their heads in puzzlement. We have some clever pixies in all areas of this phenomenal movement and the skills needed to match ever-changing conditions, are evolving, improving and exceeding expectation every time. Yay our lot!

Either side of the caravan in the entrance to the fracking site, were swollen, strange devices roughly the size and oddly the shape of a baby walrus to the right and a chubby eel to the left.

Each device contained the locked-on arms of two individuals. On the eel, the individuals were locked-on to their own pins inside and in the baby walrus (where I was with my niece Becky - our first ever lock-on), we were locked to each other. We’d made dedications on our devices and ours was for my Mum, Becky’s Grandma (Narnie is what they called her).

Back to my friend Maria though… she was individually locked-on in the eel as was Jo alongside her… so when she self-released, it had no impact on the time it took as the device still needed to be hacked apart to get him out. The cutting team had been doing the job on the beautiful beast of a thing and it resisted and showed its metal (quite literally) at endurance; sparks were flying, grinders grinding to breakage over and again, heat and smoke, vibration and smell, generators buzzing and failing and getting replaced and perplexed faces earning creases in the growing heat… all manner of ingredients goes into these things and this batch – was magnificent. The frenzied cutting and accompanying vibration impacted Maria’s health and she made the right decision. We ask a lot of ourselves but we all need to listen when our bodies say no too.

The outcome of this ‘Caravan of Love’ operation ended up at 41 hours of awareness raising and disruption to site and involved 13 individuals - although the spaces were for 11… but an odd thing happened on the way to my own personal demise and de-locking with my niece at 11pm (after 21 hours since start).

The cutting crews had been challenged throughout the day and not made enough headway to even come across to the baby walrus that Becky and I were hugging and they went home early evening; thing was though I had reached my personal breaking-point at 4pm and each moment that followed was truly challenging. The dilemma in my head was that the device had taken someone a huge amount of time and energy to build… they’d obviously intended on it doing its job and impacting the development of this site and raising awareness and if I just gave up, I’d be giving up their work too and that was an unfathomable place to be when the heat-stroke of relentless sun and ache of limited movement had kicked in to such a degree.

Our simply brilliant Welfare Team (Protectors who look after those unable to move by keeping us hydrated, nourished and cared for including sanitary requirements) also work to boost morale and keep us going… a bit like the ring guy in a boxing match at times. Although our wellbeing is paramount to welfare… so too I think is the shared aim of ensuring we see the operation through to maximum achievement… so lovely Barbara and Julie were ‘firm’ lol and dragged my whingey, moaning arse through the dark bits when my thumb clicked about with the lock and the temptation to run, be free, cool down etc nearly overtook me. The small but deeply felt waving of the fingertips of another who was in the caravan, also scooped me up as I knew they were cooking in there too and in even more awkward positions.

Once the sun bedded down, the pain at least of the burning was eased. I endured much of the rest out of fear of falling into the care of the police at the time which now included a notorious officer 322… he was leaning against a police van, whispering to younger officers whilst looking at me intently and they each then turned to laugh. It was humiliating, uncomfortable and downright bloody creepy.

An angelic visitation in the form of Olive at around 10pm (one of our Wednesday Women and a respected, kind elder), it was a beautiful thing as she massaged each remaining Protector who was locked-on; soothing our backs with her strong hands and our spirits with her soft words and wisdom. The kindness is what you take away after a thing like this and we had bucket loads of it. Although it was somewhat surreal too and an officer was heard to say “I sometimes wonder what world I’ve woken up in” as Olive entered the Caravan of Love to administer to the feisty inhabitants and the vehicle started rocking with the sounds of men being relieved of aches!

Nearing 11pm I got waves of nausea… lovely visitors had come from Maple Farm with food and generous spirits but the heat of the day and the fact I wouldn’t eat more than a nibble of a biscuit during the entire time (practical reasons!) finally got to me and I knew if I didn’t run at that minute, then I would be ill all over everywhere and everyone. I released my lock and got up to make for the shed that has the loo in it just up the road. I hadn’t been arrested so not considered that I was leaving the police area as a problem until an officer stopped me and said I was under arrest (apparently this happens either when they begin cutting you out or when you self-release). I explained the predicament that I needed to be sick and along with a female officer I was taken to the shed.

Then it was straight to a waiting arrest vehicle to be whisked off to the cells. The empty device (my niece had been released by my action as we were locked together) though didn’t stay empty as two who’d come up, dived into the opportunity and saved the bloody day!! I had not dared to hope this would be possible… circumstances with security behind and police in front certainly made this seem like (quite literally!) a ‘pipe-dream’.

So our baby walrus made it through the night with two new inhabitants as my niece and I endured 12 ugly hours in police cells. Every minute in the cell I regretted my choice to release; at least when I was locked-on, I was CHOOSING my actions and not locked into a nightmare where doors don’t open and there are no choices. I reacted really badly to this part and think it has something to do with my having once been a passenger in a 7-car pile-up; although quite some time ago, I have a residual repulsion and fear of being held in place by anything other than my own free will.

Days have now passed since the Caravan of Love and the cell experience has paled in significance and as I’ve reviewed my actions… I’m content with all my decisions and although I wish I’d endured, I was more than relieved that others could. I feel changed in some indefinable way and have learned much about my fellow Protectors that I could never have understood before. My admiration and awe is stratospheric and I feel honoured to have been a part of something that contained so much pure intent, strong moral core and beautiful humanity. Our Legal Observers, Welfare and even the Police cutting crew and Medics, acted with professionalism and care and my fellow locker-on-ers – will forever hold a special place in my heart that’s reserved for the sacred things 

*UTMOST respect though goes to the cooks and recipe makers behind the devices – your creativity and ingenuity deserve acclaim but sadly most of us don’t even know who you are to say thank you… but thank you xxx

Sunday, 20 May 2018

The Good, the Bad & the uncertainty...

Recently after a nun, vicar and monk spoke during faith week… I asked some police officers, just who were the ‘good guys’? And they said them. So I asked who are the ‘bad guys’ they were here policing… was it the nun, the vicar or the monk? They laughed but it isn’t really funny is it… there must be ‘bad guys’ if policing levels are what they are and the only alternative on this road is Cuadrilla. The obvious fails to be seen by those who don’t look.
................................
Today is day 501 since we arrived at Preston New Road to face Cuadrilla and the huge task of stopping them. Since then they have built a pad, changed their traffic management plan countless times, breached till it became so troublesome and obvious that they had to make a new rule that says: “If the police are accompanying the vehicle… it doesn’t count as a breach.”… they’ve proceeded but NOT as planned; if it had been as planned, they’d have done the flow test (fracked) by now. It is estimated they are between 9 months and a year behind schedule.
The ONLY thing stopping them being on-schedule is us. No part of our government or council has put any barriers in place or asked for pause on safety considerations when Cuadrilla made changes… they just get a well-greased ride from our ‘authorities’. The knitters, the ditherers, the delayers, the prayers, the surfers, the lock-ons, the dancers, the tea-drinkers… we’re the cause; every single moment of delay has accumulated into a huge headache for Cuadrilla, with suppliers having to work round us and some, getting wised-up or fed-up enough to pull out.
Success is impossible to measure, though the share price has not recovered since we caused the drop in it and remains below .40 cents (most investors bought in at a much higher than this price).

Failure though is felt every moment of every day that any of us stand before the beast of a rig. We feel small, inconsequential and aghast that we even have to do the work of regulators and authorities in order to keep our community and its children from harm.

Our right to peaceful protest is dependent on who is in charge at any given moment and the definition of acceptable peaceful protest has diminished to banner-waving across the road from the site entrance. We continue to sit in the entrance to the site... and are removed with the regularity of the vehicle arrivals and departures. Sometimes we are moved with care… other times we are quite literally thrown. We attempt too to get in front of the vehicles to slow them (as has been done on every other frack site) but here on the busy A583 PNR… the vehicles put pedal to the floor and don’t stop for anything. The police stand by and wrap-round the rapid vehicles, putting their own lives at risk for the flatbeds with pipes, the waste trucks, the water trucks, the skip hire and the toilet cleaning vehicle – each gets the sort of policing you’d imagine for an urgently required kidney en-route to a dying patient.

But still we come… still we gather and still we stand in protest anywhere we choose until we are rudely removed. It’s a weird thing… as a small child we are picked up and popped down all the time but as a grown-up, the act of being touched without permission and moved against your choosing – is such an affront to go through. We sit and get picked up and placed elsewhere so many times but after each… return to knit, sit, sip tea and carry on our essential defiance of the misappropriated ‘law’. The police say it is always for our own safety… there is no easy way to get them to see the lunacy of this statement when they make it in front of a drill rig they are facilitating into development with their services.

Is there a breaking point for us? There can’t be because what we are doing is too essential but there are certainly parts within us that ‘snap’.

I have had two episodes where I know I have been somewhat changed inside… the sort of change that although it adds to the determination to keep on keeping on and keeping on harder… but maybe a little something of the heart and spirit is damaged along the way. But this is a small price compared to what is experienced by those just like us, acting with the same urgency and motivation elsewhere in the world. Active citizens doing what we do are imprisoned, seriously hurt and killed in other countries and this fact… makes it all the more important that we DO NOT SUBMIT. We stand for our community of course but we also stand for all the others who do the same… one world, one water, one earth and air. I wonder what it is that gets us from our situation to theirs and only know that if we give up and say it is too much hurt, risk or difficulty – that we give up something very important in society.

Watching those we admire (if you’re fighting alongside us… you are amazing) getting hurt is so bloody hard… the natural sense of needing to peel off the police officer from their bodies or even thump the ones who threw them in the hedges or against fences, is hard to ignore. The problem is that all that anger builds and you can’t direct it at Cuadrilla because they’ve got the bubble-wrap of police around them and you can’t direct it at the police because they’ve got the protection of ‘law’ on their side. Honourable people fulfilling an obligation to safety in our community …are ‘the criminals’ in this scenario and that’s just plain bloody crazy.

It hurts to see anyone harmed and takes all our might to hold ourselves back… I swear a lot more now in place of constant charges of assault that would otherwise happen if I didn’t.

The eldest of my nieces is roadside with me and I have huge respect for the incredible job she does… her decisions are wise and I don’t worry that she makes dangerous choices as she’s intelligent and places her role as a mother as a priority. She was a distance from me last week during the exiting of a vehicle and all the crazy that comes with it… I glanced across and saw a tall, strong male body pushed up against the length of her from behind… his arms wrapped tightly round her front just below her breasts and as anyone would, saw obvious assault and ran to her. To me, her little face still looks as cute as it did when she was a toddler… I clawed at the officers hands to remove them but he had ‘law’ on his side. Our instincts that are natural, right and true are also attacked and squashed down into the growing tinder-box within ourselves and I wonder where this goes, what harms we are actually unaware of taking place within and how the hell we counter any of this.

Then I remember I am a grandmother and obliged to protect the young… and I remember George Bender and how the fight overtook him and the honourable lives lost where governments are even more brutal… and so I’ll get up and be there on day 502 and 3 and 4 until whatever it is that marks the last day.

To all who are at Preston New Road Rolling Roadside Protest and all who can't be but ensure we are not unseen by sharing and supporting in any way possible - thank you, we will one day have time to pause, tend our wounds and heal past this theft from our lives. 

Punching Police...

On not (yet) punching the police... I watched your face, the glint in your eyes, the upturned lips between smile and grimace, the w...