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Chester at centre of national anti-fracking demonstration

Hundreds expected at protest which comes just days after Upton anti-fracking camp was evicted

Over 100 people attended Sunday's solidarity march in Upton
More than 100 people attended a previous anti-fracking march in Upton in 2014

Hundreds of protesters are expected at a national anti-fracking demonstration on Saturday (January 16) in the Chester neighbourhood where an energy company has just cleared activists from land where they are searching for gas.

Organisers anticipate up to 400 activists at the J16 protest which was organised prior to Tuesday’s eviction of Upton Protection Camp by energy firm IGas who have permission to set up a test drill on site.

Campaigners are gathering from noon at Upton Park, next to the pavilion, Wealstone Lane, with activists expected from Upton, Ellesmere Port, Tarvin, Elton, Frodsham, Helsby, Malpas, Farndon and Wrexham. But protesters are also coming from Liverpool, Manchester and Lancashire, with coaches bringing people from as far afield as Bristol, Swansea, Cardiff and Monmouth.

David Holmes Demonstrators from Frack Free Upton at the entrance to Duttons Lane which has been blocked by police
Demonstrators from Frack Free Upton at the entrance to Duttons Lane as the eviction got under way on Tuesday

At 1pm there will be a ‘colourful, carnival-style walk’ from Upton Park up to Duttons Lane, near the test drill site, the lane is currently closed to allow IGas to clear the site of various structures.

Speeches will follow at 1.45pm with speakers to include Tina Louise of the Lancashire Nanas anti-fracking group, a representative from the local coalition group Frack Free Dee and from the organisation Groundswell – year of action for Climate Justice.

Anti-fracking Lancashire women, The Nanas, on a visit to the Upton anti-fracking camp in November

A spokesperson for the national demo said: “As many of you have heard, the site at Upton has been evicted, but with 85% of local residents in opposition to fracking, community resistance continues to grow. Now more than ever it’s time to get down to Upton and show them our support!

“On Tuesday the eviction of the protection camp was resisted with peaceful defiance by campers and residents, using carefully prepared tactics and some improvised ones.

“Diggers were stopped on two occasions by locals who clambered up on them. The site was cleared in nine hours and people from the area are now protesting at the entrance to the lane.”

Police blocked the entrance to Duttons Lane from Tuesday

The activists says the closure of the lane is in breach of an agreement reached with ward councillor Matt Bryan who was among the nine people arrested during the eviction operation. The spokesperson said this was ‘preventing community scrutiny of practices on site and causing serious disruption to residents’.

“It’s suspected that throughout this period the area will be converted into a drill site in preparation for the arrival of the rig,” added the representative.

“Solidarity Saturday is a chance to come together from across the country and let the industry know what it can expect when it starts building drill sites. It’s taken them 18 months to get even close to breaking ground in the face of Upton’s resistance.

A protester gets bundled off the Upton anti-fracking camp by bailiffs during Tuesday's eviction, prior to being arrested by police.

“This is an industry in the balance, and there’s everything to win. Let’s show them that we’ll stand together in the face of the new round of fracking licences.

“Weather on the day is due to be beautiful sunshine, but the fields around Chester are effectively flooded, saturated with 2-4cm of standing water. In a winter that shows the extreme weather we can expect from climate change, this is the perfect time and place to draw the line against fossil fuels and corporate and government bullying.”

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