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Local activists protest against “fracking hell”

Photo credit: York Green Party Facebook.
Photo credit: York Green Party Facebook.
Photo credit: York Green Party Facebook.

A well-attended protest march against fracking has taken place in York city centre this Saturday.

At midday on Saturday 30th July, a diverse crowd gathered in front of Clifford’s Tower to march against fracking in Yorkshire. The York Green Party was officially represented, as well as a range of local activists from York and the surrounding areas, such as Ryedale and Selby. Families marched with dogs and pushchairs, and helpers handed out anti-fracking signs to demonstrators who had come without.

In a long line, which required significant police shepherding due to the large numbers involved, they marched up the Shambles, passing through St. Helen’s Square, to York Minster, where they gathered to hear from a range of speakers. The message communicated through their banners and chants was one of localised, rural opposition to fracking, with concerns expressed about the impact on Yorkshire farmers and the cleanliness of the water supply. “Come and join us,” one demonstrator said to bemused spectators. “This affects us all.”

However, also expressed was a much wider dissatisfaction with British political discourse. “System change, not climate change,” urged several of the banners. Their message at times became more universal too, as “No fracking Yorkshire” stretched to “No fracking the UK” and eventually culminated in “No fracking anywhere.”

There was a strong creative undertone to the demonstration as well. One protestor had brought drums, another a fiddle. All joined in the anti-fracking songs, most of them witty takes on well-known tunes, such as ‘We will, we will frack you.” One man, who described himself as a local poet and environmental activist, was even dramatically performing his own verse as he walked, recounting a dystopian vision of a barren world destroyed by human over-consumption.

When the crowd had eventually assembled in front of York Minster, which it was stressed was also endangered by fracking, the first and main speaker, John Ashton, the UK’s former Special Representative for Climate Change, spoke of how “precious” the rule of law was in Britain, and how “contemptible” he believed it was that those who supported fracking attempted to subvert it in their own vested interest. Later speakers stressed how their movement was growing, claiming there were now more than 400 anti-fracking groups nationwide, and informed those listening how they could become involved.

“Love and compassion will always win, and we will win this war,” concluded Ashton. There is another anti-fracking protest planned in Leeds this coming Wednesday evening.

Following the main event, Rose Drew, a local publisher and academic, originally from Connecticut, led some anti-fracking poetry reading by the activists in the York Museum Gardens.