By Kiera McNicholas, Staff Photographer
The Balcombe Protection Camp is the name of the fracking protest I lived at for a week this summer. Balcombe is a town a 45 minute train ride outside of London, England. Fracking has just starting in England—it is early enough in the game that the English can learn from America’s mistakes before the damage becomes irreversible.
Cuadrilla, the drilling company, started test drilling to evaluate the location. Even though they had legal permission from the landowner there was some political drama there because the landowner also happened to own basically the whole town and was everyone’s landlord, yet he himself lived hours away. The local villagers put their foot down and set up camp along the side of the road.
What started with a small group of protesters grew into a 9 week protest camp with over 1,000 protesters coming and going, about 100 arrests, over 60 tents being lived out of, food and water donations enough to support anywhere between 30 – 100 resident protesters at one time, and so much more. Follow the stories of these pictures to get a taste of my experience.
Click on an image to get the full caption.
Tents and banners cover the road side.
Peaceful protesting taking place. Every time a truck would drive down the road to pull in the driveway to enter the fracking site and drop off necessary materials, the police would surround the truck for the protesters ‘safety’ and the protesters would walk slowly down the road in front of the truck. This elongated the process dropping off process and made the cost of the fracking grow exponentially, in the hopes the company would get the message that they were not welcome there.
The woman in the orange vest is the legal observer. Her job was very important. She was trained to observe interactions between cops and protesters and provide documentation to be used in records during court case and or to de-arrest someone. I received this training but felt way too overwhelmed with the responsibility of that duty to wear the vest.
At the top right and you will see the drill itself. We could see it from the protest site—not to mention hear and feel it at night. My second night there I fell asleep to the smell of gas which was rising from the test drilling that was occurring. The ground was constantly shaking as well. Lying in a sleeping bag and feeling the ground shake and hearing the pulsing of the drill was like a living nightmare: I felt like I was a standing by and witnessing Mother Nature being raped.
A truck with drill bits turning into the driveway – cops only let the protesters get so close. They said they were there to keep us safe.
A job I took on for my time at the protest was vehicle tracker. I noted when trucks and cars entered and exited, vehicle make, license plate, etc. I actually called and reported an illegal truck during my last hour at the protest—a very stressful process. The plate in the front of the truck did not match that on the back. The person I spoke to on the phone said the truck would get pulled off the road.
The unrolled scroll “List of the Harmed,” lists all those in the USA that have gotten sick and or have died because of the negative health and environmental effects of fracking. Together we unraveled it along the road side to give the visual message as well as giving people the chance to read down the list. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I rolled it up and felt the weight of the scroll’s content on my heart.
Here is the link to the scroll seen in the final picture: http://pennsylvaniaallianceforcleanwaterandair.wordpress.com/the-list/
I considered the protection camp/protest site to be my home from Aug. 7 to Aug. 13. I am still amazed and how impacted my life was and continues to be by my time there. My experience at the protest was a reminder of how beautiful the world is (‘strangers’ coming together and giving what they had passionately and working for environmental change) as well as a reality check of how messed up it is. It was life changing without a doubt.
Ever seen someone get arrested? I witnessed my first arrest on day 2. Here is a video (provided by visionontv, filmed by Hamish Campbell) of my friend getting arrested: his charge was for giving the cops the finger.
If you have any questions, comments, or want to share a similar story you can contact Kiera at email@example.com.