This is why normal conservative people are starting to feel very uncomfortable
I own and run two businesses in Lancashire. My CV and life history mean I would probably be expected to be a staunch Conservative. As it happens I am not, because I cannot reconcile modern, feral, Conservatism with my own beliefs about fairness and opportunity. However, I do have the standard issue, English middle class, inbuilt respect for authority, which is causing me some severe internal conflict when I witness what is happening in our country right now.
I have not attended the protest camps at Balcombe or Barton Moss, and I am wary of becoming involved in anything that approaches direct action. In this respect I think I am typical of many people in my local area. I do have great respect for those who do give up their time and energy to highlight what they, and I, consider to be an anti-democratic imposition of a foolish project onto a public, who are being fed misinformation by a government hell-bent on fracking.
I am, however, coming to the conclusion that civil disobedience in the face of a government which promises one thing and does another is not only legitimate, it is what any person with a brain and a conscience should be considering. As Professor Kevin Anderson has pointed out the targets our government publicly signs up to and the incompatibility of their resulting actions represents, in itself, a form of institutionalised civil disobedience. You can listen to what Professor Anderson had to say here http://manchesterclimatemonthly.net/2013/12/17/professor-kevin-anderson-on-shale-gas-civil-disobedience-and-barton-moss-manchester-climate/. It is well worth 5 minutes of your time.
In this context I was both profoundly shocked and moved to read this impassioned and articulate open letter from a young lady who was arrested recently for exercising her democratic right to protest.
Please take the time to read it and consider what it says about our society and the way in which our government seems intent on subverting our democratic system.
“Seems appropriate to send this out on the darkest day of the year. As the light will be returning to the world i hope it shines on the decision makers of this country and allows them to see more clearly. Its an open letter to GMP police about their actions and my last arrest. Thank you for all your support and well wishes. To GMP I am writing to you regarding my treatment by your officers on the 13th and 14th of this month and your handling of the Barton Moss anti-fracking protest, and to voice my sense of injustice at the absurdity of my arrest and subsequent overnight imprisonment for merely exercising my legal right to protest. To start with I would like to sincerely and publicly express my gratitude to the night officer who showed me firstly the level of respect that we should all show to each other regardless of differing backgrounds, beliefs and position within society. This man then demonstrated his humanity by taking a little time out of what seemed a pretty hectic Friday night to talk to me like a human being. This helped me through what would otherwise have been a much more harrowing experience. I didn’t catch your name but thank you. Barton Moss is the 3rd anti-fracking camp I have attended this year as it’s a cause my conscience will not let me ignore. In May I spent a water-logged week in Lancashire where drilling company Cuadrilla first sunk its teeth into the English countryside. I followed their progress though the country to Balcombe in Sussex where the opposition to this poisonous, destructive and corrupt industrialisation of the countryside first gained the national prominence that it so urgently deserves. This was due not least to the well informed creative peaceful protesters being met by overly zealous policing. I would have hoped that the police would have learnt lessons from the 3 month long camp but after less than 12 hours at Barton Moss I discovered this is sadly not the case. You are still treating peaceful protesters as criminals. You are still making arrests where no crime has been committed. You have wasted your time, court time, tax payers money, and have caused unnecessary suffering to those you are arresting. At Balcombe a disabled protester had their mobility equipment put in jeopardy by an officer forcing their electric wheelchair out of the way instead of facilitating her right to peacefully protest. At Barton Moss in the process of arresting me you pushed a disabled man out of the way into a ditch breaking his leg. And you are still facilitating these ecocidal maniacs in their daily business without questioning whose interests you are serving. The force should ask why as a public service it is being used at all our expense (not just monetarily) to drive through the infrastructure of this profound pollution. It is clear that a major national debate is needed. It is not right that companies recklessly driven by desire for huge profits that has many of our mps and members of the House of Lords in positions with conflict of interest should be assisted to risk something as fundamentally important as our drinking water. Prior to my arrest, my behaviour was no different to the many others I was marching with and if what I was doing was really breaking the law why weren’t there many more arrests? Your arrest strategy of ‘just pluck a few from the crowd’ seems driven by the desire to scare other protesters away from exercising their legal right to protest. My arrest seemed rather arbitrary apart from the testimony of one officer (collar number 11505) to his senior that my behaviour was threatening. This is just absurd to anyone in the vicinity, or if you look at the video footage. If this officer towering over me with the full authority of the law is genuinely threatened by a woman who is 5 months pregnant and at the time walking backwards drinking a cup of lukewarm tea, trying to engage him in intelligent conversation, perhaps he should be undergoing some form of psychological evaluation. Exactly what was he threatened by? Does he have a pathological fear of pregnant women, tea, or more depressingly, intelligent conversation. This man was willing to misuse his considerable authority to remove a young woman for peacefully exercising a basic and vital human right. It appears so often the case the authorities would rather violently remove the messenger than confront the inconvenient truth of the message. Countless times during the protest the front line police and PLO officers were peddling the same line ‘you voted didn’t you?’ implying the country voted for fracking. Fracking was not mentioned in the 2010 election campaign so how could a vote for the current government constitute an acceptance of fracking. Even if it had been, to suggest that once the country had voted people should simply suspend all democratic activities till the next election irrespective of how our politicians choose to act is just plain daft. When officers where speaking to those who chose not to vote (1 in the 35% of the electorate that didn’t) it was suggested by officers that they should try voting before protesting. I would like to inform those officers that people who protest in the face of injustice have been central to every civilising democratic advance from slavery to the rights of women, to healthcare for all. Protest exposes issues the nation might otherwise be unaware of and when our government is found to be corrupt or simply just horrendously misguided, it is through peaceful protest that we can hold them accountable and ensure the democratic will of the people is actually upheld. I assume we’d agree the police forces of this nation are there to keep the peace. They are there to protect and serve the people and not simply tools of an oppressive and corrupt regime. I would hope that you could ensure your officers understand why peaceful protest is so crucial to our democracy and stop treating protesters as criminals. We are rather concerned citizens who are very passionate about his vital issue. This is our nations drinking water at risk and it shouldn’t be gambled away purely for private profit. What’s more according to stark warnings from the scientific community and to reach our countries carbon reduction targets we need to be moving away from fossil fuels not looking for more. I hope as the beginning of this letter demonstrates I don’t think the whole of the police force are ignorant bully boys but there are some bad apples and I feel as a whole your great responsibly to the people of this country is not being fulfilled. I look forward to your response.”