MEPs from across Europe, led by Green MEP Keith Taylor, stood together in the European Parliament on Wednesday to send their solidarity to the three campaigners who, last week, became the first ever to be jailed in Britain for peacefully protesting against fracking.
Simon Roscoe Blevins, 26, Richard Roberts, 36, and Rich Loizou, 31, were given jail terms between 15 and 16 months for taking direct action to delay a convoy of lorries carrying fracking equipment to the controversial drill site on Preston New Road, near Blackpool.
A fourth member of the so-called #FrackFreeFour, Julian Brock, 47, was given a 12-month prison term, suspended for 18 months, after pleading guilty to causing a public nuisance.
Standing together in Strasbourg, cross-party MEPs from across Europe expressed their solidarity with the #FrackFreeFour and backed calls to #FreeTheThree. Holding posters declaring "protecting the planet is not a crime," MEPs put aside party political allegiances to jointly condemn the "declining space for civil society to effectively oppose the fracking industry in the UK".
More than 20 MEPs, from the Greens/EFA group, including UK Green Party and Plaid Cymru MEPs, the Socialists & Democrats, including UK Labour MEPs, the European United Left-Nordic Green Left group and the conservative European People's Party, representing the UK, Spain, France, Portugal, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands and more came together to send their support to the campaigners.
Commenting after the event, Keith Taylor MEP, a long-time campaigner against fracking, said:
"I am pleased so many of my colleagues join me in sending a united message of support to the brave heroes whose fight to protect our planet has robbed them of their liberty."
"We are supposed to be, the theory goes, a mature liberal democracy that can accommodate dissent. The decision to jail peaceful fracking protesters blows that myth wide-open; authoritarianism has become a favourite tool of a minority government that lacks the public's support to force through its environmentally destructive agenda by any other means. Any government that conspires with the dirty fossil fuel industry against its own people is rotten to the core."
"Dissent is not a crime in any country with a political system fit to be called a democracy. I will continue to support the #FrackFreeFour and campaign to #FreeTheThree."
Residents in Lancashire and their elected representative repeatedly said no to fracking at Preston New Road, but were overruled by the Conservative government. Mr Taylor is currently running a 'say no to fast-tracking fracking' campaign urging people to respond to Ministers' proposals to speed up the fracking application process by bypassing local democracy . The consultations close on October 25.
The MEPs supporting the action include: from the Greens/EFA group, Keith Taylor (GPEW, UK), Molly Scott Cato (GPEW, UK), Jean Lambert (GPEW, UK), Jill Evans (PC, UK), Eva Joly (EE, FR), Jannick Jadot (EE, FR), Jose Bove (EE, FR), Romeo Franz (B90/DG, DE), Ska Keller (B90/DG, DE), Klaus Buchner (ODP, DE), Thomas Waitz (DG-DGA, AT), Ana Miranda (BNG, ES), Margrete Auken (SF, DK), Tilly Metz (DG-LV, LU), Philippe Lamberts (ECOLO, BE), from the European United Left-Nordic Green Left group, Stefan Eck (Ind, DE), Lynn Boylan (SF, IE), Anja Hazenkamp (PvdD, NL), from the Socialists and Democrats, Wajid Khan (Lab, UK), Theresa Griffin (Lab, UK), Julie Ward (Lab, UK) and from the European People's Party, Jose Inacio Faria (PdT, Pt).