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Lucas arrested at fracking protest
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas was among more than 30 people arrested when anti-fracking campaigners staged a series of protests around the country.
The arrests were made as hundreds of people gathered outside the gates of energy firm Cuadrilla's drilling site in Balcombe, West Sussex, to demonstrate against fracking on Tuesday.
Opponents of the controversial process for extracting shale gas also blockaded the headquarters of Cuadrilla, while others superglued themselves to a PR company used by the energy firm. The series of protests and direct action marked the first of two days of "mass civil disobedience" which campaigners have pledged to carry out to highlight their stance against fracking.
The 29 arrests in Balcombe ranged from a 15-year-old girl from Brighton, to a 66-year-old man from Hythe, Southampton, with the majority for public order offences, including refusing to leave and obstructing a public highway, and breaching the public order act. A 17-year-old girl from South Brent, Devon was arrested for possession of an offensive weapon while a 23-year-old man from London and 26-year-old from Lancaster were held for assaulting a police officer.
Ms Lucas said she was trying to stop a process which could cause enormous damage for decades to come, undermining efforts to tackle climate change and posing risks to the local environment. "People today, myself included, took peaceful non-violent direct action only after exhausting every other means of protest available to us," she said. "Despite the opposition to fracking being abundantly clear, the Government has completely ignored the views of those they are supposed to represent."
The MP had been sitting with a crowd of protesters outside the entrance to Cuadrilla's Balcombe site for most of the day when she was marched away by officers and put into a waiting police van. Protesters also claimed that Ms Lucas's son had been arrested. Sussex Police said protesters had been arrested as officers moved in to clear a large group of people in front of an emergency access to the site. Officers spent more than hour removing the final seven protesters, whose arms were connected to each other through plastic tubing, from outside the gate.
A police spokesman said everyone arrested had been taken to custody centres across East and West Sussex. More than 400 officers have been deployed on the operation at Balcombe, with support from 10 other UK forces. Protest group No Dash for Gas accused police at Balcombe of "an extremely aggressive response" to the demonstration, claiming officers charged, shoved and kettled protesters, including disabled people and children. Sussex Police said on Twitter that protesters were not being kettled and were free to leave the site as they wished.
No Dash For Gas also said 20 protesters shut down the Cuadrilla site in Lichfield by blockading it with their bodies. It said two people inside the building had also hung banners from it saying: "Reclaim the power" and "Power to the people". Staffordshire Police arrested a 36-year-old woman from Middlesex on suspicion of aggravated trespass. In London six protesters superglued themselves to the glass door of Bell Pottinger and deployed reinforced arm tubes to stop anyone else getting inside.
In a statement Cuadrilla condemned illegal direct action against its staff and operations. Employees and the teams supporting the company's operations knew that what they were doing was "legal, approved and safe, and that shale gas is essential to improve our energy security, heat our homes, and create jobs and growth", it said.
Ms Lucas said her decision to take direct action at the demonstration "wasn't taken lightly". She added that she will find out the police's decision about whether to press charges next week.