A European election candidate for the North West Green Party has been arrested at the Barton Moss anti-fracking demonstration in Salford.
Green activist Laura Bannister, aged 28, lives in Whalley Range and works in mental health in Greater Manchester. She is being held at Swinton police station.
Greater Manchester Police’s handling of the protest and the arrest is now being challenged, after 60 people demonstrated peacefully against lorry deliveries to the IGas drilling site.
At the same demonstration, police arrested a pregnant woman while, according to the Salford Star, a disabled man was barged into bushes by police, and an elderly woman with a walking stick was removed against her wishes by police for "walking too slowly".
Clifford Fleming, Campaigns and Citizenship Officer at the University of Manchester Students’ Union, commented: “The arrest of Laura Bannister and other campaigners at Barton Moss represents an attack on the right to protest… [We] condemn the police’s handling of the protest. It is vital peaceful demonstrators are not scared off from exercising their democratic rights. As far as we understand, Laura and the other arrested activists – including a pregnant woman – were arrested for simply standing up for what they believe, without causing harm to anyone.
”We call on Greater Manchester Police to apologise for the heavy-handed nature of their approach, to deal with these cases fairly, and to launch an inquiry into their handling of protests such as those of the anti-fracking movement. As it stands, these arrests potentially mark a worrying attack on the right to protest.
“We stand in solidarity with activists across the country campaigning against the destruction of our environment and our communities by energy companies intent on drilling for shale gas at the cost of our futures.
"Fracking fundamentally goes against attempts to create a clean energy future for this country and instead locks us in to yet more dirty gas production, polluting our water and ripping up rural areas in pursuit of profit.”
Speaking to the Manchester Gazette, Laura Bannister said: ”Along with other local Green Party members and activists I’ve been spending time at the Barton Moss protest camp in the last few weeks. Fracking won’t bring down energy prices or create many jobs, but investment in home insulation and renewable energy would.
“Fracking has significant potential to pollute the air and contaminate our water supplies, and it is certain to contribute to climate change. Fracking is therefore pointless and harmful. We don’t need it and we don’t want it – there are much better solutions to our energy crisis.”