Protesters who blockaded the entrance to energy firm Cuadrilla’s headquarters in Staffordshire claimed fracking would send fuel bills ‘through the roof’ as they clashed with police outside the building.
It came as staff were due to return to the offices in Stowe Street, Lichfield today.
Organisers behind yesterday’s protest have criticised the police for their ‘heavy-handed’ handling of the demonstration, which ran for more than six hours.
At least two of the activists managed to enter the building in Staffordshire and attach themselves to furniture using bicycle D-locks. One was later lifted off her feet as she grappled with officers.
Outside, around 20 campaigners stood at the entrance to the Lichfield office in Stowe Street, chanting: “Frack-free Lichfield, Frack-free Staffordshire.”
They had hung banners from the building reading: ‘Reclaim the power’ and ‘Power to the people’, while a number of tents were also set up.
Staff were sent home for the day while police manned the scene and guarded a back entrance.
Yesterday’s protest came on the first of two days of ‘mass civil disobedience’ against fracking – a method of gas extraction that critics say is damaging to the environment.
They say claims that the practice will reduce energy costs are untrue and also that the method can pollute water supplies.
In Balcombe, West Sussex, activists are taking part in a six-day Reclaim The Power action camp after Cuadrilla began carrying out exploratory oil drilling there.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas was among more than 30 people arrested in yesterday’s protests.
The arrests were made as hundreds of people gathered outside the gates of energy firm Cuadrilla’s drilling site in Balcombe to demonstrate against fracking.
Opponents of the controversial process for extracting shale gas also superglued themselves to a PR company used by the energy firm.
MP Ms Lucas had been with a crowd of protesters outside the entrance to Cuadrilla’s Balcombe site for most of the day when she was marched away by officers and put into a waiting police van.
More than 400 officers have been deployed on the operation at Balcombe, with support from 10 other UK forces.
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The activists who took part in the Lichfield protest said they worried the same could happen in the Black Country and other areas.
Tom Wragg, a 22-year-old engineering graduate from Birmingham who was taking part in the action, said: “People have come from across the country to say that we are with the people of Balcombe.
“It is hugely important that people stand by each other because this could spring up anywhere in the country, as it has down in other countries.”
Debby Petersen, who was also taking part, added: “Cuadrilla have imposed their dirty energy on the community of Balcombe, and so we have brought our camp from Balcombe to their headquarters. We need to reclaim our energy system from the hands of corporations that will frack our countryside, crash our climate targets and send fuel bills through the roof.”
The campaigners, who were mostly students, said members of the public they had spoken to seemed to be backing their cause.
James Buck, aged 72, who lives nearby, said: “I’m behind them all the way. It’s good to see them standing up for their cause.”
Meanwhile, in central London six campaigners from the action group No Dash For Gas super-glued themselves to the glass door of Cuadrilla’s PR company, Bell Pottinger. Another activist climbed the High Holborn building and unfurled a banner reading: “Bell Pottinger – fracking liars”.
The protest group claims it has obtained a secret recording of a senior public relations officer at the firm admitting that the effect fracking will have on people’s energy bills will be ‘basically insignificant’, which it said it was playing on a loudspeaker.
A spokesman for Bell Pottinger said the recording being played was not the full one.
A group of around 20 protesters also demonstrated outside the constituency office of Balcombe MP and Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude yesterday morning.
And activists, including three disabled people, blocked the main gate of Cuadrilla’s drill site in Balcombe, with four protesters using D-locks and superglue to attach themselves to another protester’s wheelchair.
They were joined by other campaigners who staged a noisy protest outside the gates, in an action organised by Disabled People Against the Cuts.
Police were called to the Lichfield protest at 8.40am yesterday and left at around 3pm.
On its website Cuadrilla said: “Cuadrilla acknowledges and regrets the disruption and inconvenience Balcombe villagers will experience as a result of the No Dash for Gas Action Camp. After taking advice from Sussex Police, Cuadrilla is temporarily scaling back drilling operations. During this time, our main concern is the safety of our staff, Balcombe’s residents and the protesters following threats of direct action against the exploration site. We plan to resume full operations as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Cuadrilla’s chief executive Francis Egan insists the firm is not yet committed to fracking and would require permission to carry it out.
He said: “Cuadrilla’s exploration work at Balcombe involves drilling a conventional oil well. Any hydraulic fracturing proposal would require a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment, public consultations and multi-agency regulatory reviews, all of which would be available for scrutiny.”