(Originally published on Quays News, November 13, 2016)
THOUSANDS of protesters marched on Manchester City Centre last Saturday in an anti-fracking demonstration.
Manchester city centre stopped on Saturday to watch members of anti-fracking groups and residents of communities from across the country make their voices heard.
Fracking is the process of extracting shale gas from the Earth, however it has proven to be damaging to the environment and health of those around it.
The rally was in response to the government’s decision to overrule Lancashire County Council’s rejection to an application for a site at Preston New Road.
Fracking company Cuadrilla already have an active site in the North West at Preese Hall, with another at Roseacre Wood on hold after public concern.
Martin, a steward at the rally and member of ‘Frack-Free Lancashire’, said: “We want to educate people into the reality behind this industry, this is a public display of our disappointment.”
He added: “I live very close to an area which has been tested for fracking and the farmers are absolutely terrified, as one of the certainties is that it will affect the water supply.”
Gathering at Piccadilly Gardens, protesters showed their opposition by carrying placards, playing instruments and chanting through the streets.
The march, which is believed to be the largest anti-fracking demonstration ever in the UK, concluded in a congregation at Castlefield Bowl, where a number of high profile individuals offered their support, including: Bianca Jagger and Andy Burnham, as well as music provided by legendary Hacienda DJ Dave Haslam.
Greater Manchester Mayoral candidate and MP for Leigh Andy Burnham reassured the crowd.
He said: “We will stand up against it and I will stand up against it if I am elected Mayor. The message will go out from Greater Manchester that it’s not going to come here without a fight.”
“Let’s stand together to protect our environment and our cherished green spaces.”
Human Rights activist Bianca Jagger confirmed her solidarity with those against the controversial practice.
She said: “I came to stand with you, and know there are millions of people across the country that are supporting the struggle of the people in Lancashire, in Morecambe, Yorkshire, and throughout the country who are battling against the fracking industry. And it’s important to send a clear message to the government that it is wrong and we do not believe they will do what is necessary to protect our environment and protect us.”
Bez, of Manchester band the Happy Mondays, also joined the crowd and explained how he found what was happening at Barton Moss unbelievable.
He said: “The most frightening thing for me is Westminster overruling a local council, the fear of us moving to a corporate dictatorship where nothing gets in the way of profit. We may as well not have local councils anymore.”
“We’ve still got to get the message out there even though the numbers are growing. A lot of people are still totally unaware of the consequences of it.”
Dave Haslam, who DJ’d at the event, added: “I just don’t think Fracking can prove itself reliable or safe. There are problems with the environment, problems with earthquakes, polluted water getting into the water system, the effects on people’s health, the traffic problems. I don’t think economically it makes as much sense as renewable sources of energy, like wind power.”
“I think the North of England has always been somewhere where Westminster politicians don’t have our best interests at heart. I think if they discovered shale gas under Henley on Thames or Ascot or the Houses of Parliament, they would not be as keen as they are.”
“One of the things it does fundamentally show is that big business see our people and our land as a resource to plunder, the important thing is the money that can be made out of us. It’s a defining issue; it sums up a big battle in the country between people who see money and exploiting resources as the be all and end all, and others that see the quality of our life and the environment worth protecting.”
Listen to highlights of the anti-fracking demonstration here, including speeches from Bianca Jagger and protesters, as well as an interview with Bez: