Green MEP avoids arrest as 79-year-old ‘tea lady’ forcibly removed from Kirby Misperton fracking site

Green MEP Keith Taylor criticised North Yorkshire Police tactics after narrowly avoiding arrest and witnessing the ‘heavy-handed’ treatment of a 79-year-old ‘tea lady’ during an impromptu visit to the Kirby Misperton fracking site on Monday, 9 October.

The MEP for the South East has been attending the Green Party conference in Harrogate but was invited to Kirby Misperton by residents and campaigners to hear their concerns about the policing operation at the site.

Mr. Taylor has been an active campaigner against fracking and unconventional oil and gas drilling in his South East constituency.

The Green MEP has also been a leading critic of the tactics employed by police forces across the country against peaceful drilling protesters – following reports of police and security forces using excessive force and even violence.

Mr. Taylor has written to the National Police Chief Council to raise his concerns about the “bully boy” policing methods and harassment experienced by peaceful protesters in the Sussex, Lancashire, and Derbyshire.

During his visit to the site on Monday morning, Keith Taylor was moved to deliver a speech to campaigners after witnessing more than ten North Yorkshire Police officers ‘intimidate’ and ‘bully’ Jackie Brookes, the site’s septuagenarian ‘tea lady’, from her prominent position at the gates of the site.

The senior Green politician almost found himself arrested after passing a bag to fracking protester Eddie Thornton – who was occupying the protesters’ so-called ‘watchtower’ at the site.

Footage from the visit appears to show the police officer questioning Mr. Taylor decide against arresting the senior Green politician after being told he was a member of the European Parliament.

Talking to campaigners on site, Keith said:

“What I’m particularly concerned about is the tactics some of the police are using here, and across the country. The bullying and intimidation of a 79-year-old grandmother by 18 police officers is just shameful. While North Yorkshire Police seem to suspect Jackie of being a dangerous teapot terrorist, in reality, all she has done is peacefully oppose fracking in the most Yorkshire way possible – by keeping officers and campaigners alike topped up with tea and cake.”

“The overreaction and disproportionate policing I’ve witnessed here today are exactly the reasons why I continue to call for the National Police Chief’s Council to urgently review its guidelines for the policing of fracking protests – it’s a call that I’ve been making for months but so far remains unheeded.”

“As the most recent NetPol report on the policing of anti-fossil fuel extraction protests suggests: it is becoming increasingly clear that political pressure is being brought to bear on police forces to act as the legal enforcers in a drilling debate the government is losing. The Government is in danger of allowing industry interests to undermine our fundamental freedoms.”

“UK police forces work on the fundamental principle of consent, but if local residents are beginning to question whether officers are working to protect them or just the interests of the oil and gas industry the notion of consent has broken down – and trust must be repaired.”

It is not the first time local campaigners in North Yorkshire, who resolutely rejected fracking and continue to oppose it in their community, have raised their concerns about ‘heavy-handed’ policing at the Kirby Misperton site near Malton.

North Yorkshire Police have also been criticised by The Fire Brigade Union for misusing North Yorkshire firefighters to prevent peaceful protests at the Kirby Misperton fracking site.

Keith, a member of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee and the European Chair of the Climate Parliament, continued:

“The Green Party has consistently opposed fracking and will continue fighting for an outright ban. In the meantime, I’m also calling on the European Parliament to introduce stricter EU-wide regulations on the development of unconventional oil and gas reserves – including fracking and acidisation.”

“Ultimately, The scientific consensus on climate change has never been greater. It is clear that the best chance we have of averting catastrophe is by keeping fossil fuel reserves in the ground. These processes are a dangerous and deeply unpopular method of fossil fuel extraction. They also have profound and acute impacts on local communities; public opposition has never been higher while support has never been lower.”

“An authoritarian crackdown on British citizens’ right to protest will not change that truth. I and my Green colleagues will continue to stand up for and stand alongside fossil fuel protesters across the UK.”