Anti-fracking protest camps in two areas of the country have been infiltrated by violent criminals, drug users, wild conspiracy theorists and ‘professional’ political activists, a Mail on Sunday investigation reveals today.
Policing the protesters, who frequently resort to ‘direct action’ such as blocking roads to hold up shale gas drilling, has cost local taxpayers almost £4 million this year and led to more than 400 arrests.
The protesters claim on their websites that they represent communities near the drilling sites and are protecting them from the dangers posed by fracking.
But analysis of those arrested shows only about a quarter had ever lived nearby until they joined the camps.
Many genuine locals – including those opposed to fracking – have vehemently condemned the protesters and the disruption their tactics cause.
At Kirby Misperton, near Malton in North Yorkshire, they have formed an anti-protester protest group, which already boasts more than 800 members.
And last week it emerged that on seven separate occasions, protesters in Lancashire made bogus 999 calls to the ambulance service, claiming they had been injured by police – but then refused to go to hospital, saying they were unhurt. Meanwhile, traffic chaos caused by protesters has delayed the response to genuine emergencies at least twice.
However, the protest camp residents have been applauded by visiting celebrities and Left-wing politicians, including Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.
Ms Lucas told demonstrators at the fracking site at Preston New Road near Blackpool that they were on the ‘right side of history’.
She claimed that ‘direct action’ was necessary because they had ‘tried the democratic process and it hasn’t worked’.
When he visited, Mr McDonnell said he would ‘take back a message to Parliament and my colleagues that we need to give you all the support we can’. Throughout his career, Mr McDonnell has frequently called for direct action to achieve political change: after this year’s Election, he claimed it was needed to ‘bring down the Government’.
Inquiries by this newspaper have revealed:
- At the Lancashire camp, protest leaders include individuals convicted of both violent and sexual assault, and a man with robbery and battery convictions who has used social media to incite vigilante attacks against a paedophile;
- At Kirby Misperton, the camp was co-founded by Stephen Peers, who was given a three-month jail sentence in 2014 for an assault on his wife and later jailed again for illegally filming court proceedings;
- His co-founder Ian Crane is a conspiracy theorist who hosts weekly internet TV shows in which he proclaims terrorist outrages such as 9/11 and recent attacks in London were the work of the British and American governments;
- Mr McDonnell and Ms Lucas were briefed about allegedly ‘oppressive’ policing in Lancashire by a man who insists he is a ‘Jedi Knight’. Although his real name is Daniel Nye, he will only answer to the name ‘Master Lion’;
- Posts on a Facebook page by protesters in Lancashire say a woman there was taken to hospital after taking a Class A drug ‘cooked up’ on site by another resident, while in Yorkshire, posts contain references to an alleged sexual assault.