No Dash for Gas! Protestors converge on Balcombe
Ed Bauer reports from the Reclaim the Power camp in Balcombe, Sussex
This last weekend the Sussex town of Balcombe played host to Reclaim the Power, a protest camp targeting the site of a fracking bid by the controversial firm Cuadrilla. Many of the headlines on the day of direct action focused on the arrest of Green MP Caroline Lucas, who should be congratulated on taking a strong stance and putting herself on the front line. However, the more interesting element I drew from my participation at the event was the participatory form of organisation which imbued the camp with energy. More important than the arrest of one MP has to be the dynamism of the movement which has encouraged hundreds of people to take direct action against the big energy companies.
The Blockade at the site, where Caroline Lucas was arrested, was part of of many actions happening on day on which hundreds headed out from the camp to take action across the country. This included Cuadrilla PR firm offices in London, its offices in Lichfield and a pro-fracking MP’s offices too. The camp is a welcome break from stage-managed left wing events of come and listen to to big-wigs and the “party-line” which contain little space for debate, and worse little room for a empowering culture in which individuals are encouraged to organise spontaneously rather than wait for orders. This form of organising is far from perfect, and can even not realise the democratic aspirations its aspires to on occasion, but there is no doubt that the camp generated a massive amount of spontaneity and dynamism, and this was organically connected to how it was run.
Along with other activists from the camp on the day of non-violent direct action I headed off to occupy and blockade the Cuadrilla HQ in Lichfield. At the Lichfield protest two activists locked on with D-locks inside the office while others who weren’t locked on were removed while these two remained. The police & G4S security were unable to remove them as the blockaders outside stopped the cutting equipment entering the building.
The police eventually broke in through the blockade climbing over a side gate only find they had forgotten a tool and had to repeat the process. Once unlocked they then seemed to notice they still had the problem of getting the arrested and unchained activists out having hitherto neglected this while attempting to break in they had to wait to call in more support.
Hopefully the camps heralds a rekindled climate justice movement, with a stronger emphasis on class struggle that perhaps the climate camps (which in many ways Reclaim the Power has evolved from) did not contain. We will see! Whatever happens in the future the camp has already succeeded in putting the fight against fracking firmly on the political agenda – whereas previously there had hardly been a public debate on it.