Protests: What are they really like?

by Dean Baybutt
Scene outside the Town Hall on Tuesday 23rd June – Photograph by Dean Baybutt

By Amy Tempest – Reporter


Hordes of protesters gathered outside Lancashire County Hall on Tuesday to be part of an anti – fracking demonstration; I tagged along to see what protests were like first hand.

I am not the stereotypical protester shown being arrested on the news. I don’t have dreads, live on a diet of hummus and tofu. I also tremble at the thought of being arrested. But there I was, amongst the mass, experiencing my first protest.

The demonstration had been organised as a reaction to a company’s application to use two areas in Lancashire to frack for shale gas. The councillors of Lancashire met at the town hall in Preston to vote on either granting the application or rejecting it. At the same time, people who opposed fracking in Lancashire gathered outside in lively, yet peaceful protest.

 

The streets outside the hall were dotted with banners and signs which read the inevitable and very fun fracking puns. Photography by Aimee Hudson
The streets outside the hall were dotted with banners and signs which read the inevitable and very fun fracking puns. Photography by Aimee Hudson

A group of banners aimed at the cars read ‘Honk if you support us’ and the crowd cheered every time a car honked. There was a group of musicians on the roadside singing songs of protest and giving the event a constant steady drum beat. It had the feel of a festival. There were petitions, information leaflets and passionate activists sharing their views and opinions on the matter.

Musicians used homemade instruments to entertain the crowds - Photograph by Dean Baybutt
Musicians used homemade instruments to entertain the crowds – Photograph by Dean Baybutt

Later in the day I joined the crowd of hundreds to listen to speeches. Organised by Friends of the Earth, community groups and speakers joined from across the country. A number of people travelled from as far away as Brighton to show support. High profile speakers who joined the cause of across the week included Natalie Bennett; Leader of the Green Party and Fashion Designer Vivienne Westwood. Representatives of the many community groups and charities opposing fracking gave voice to the collective’s concerns and were met with cheers, chanting and singing. One women opened with ‘I have never done anything like this in my life’ – I wasn’t the only one popping my protesting cherry. All speeches were informative, emotive and inspiring. Vivienne Westwood closed with the rallying cry ‘we must win this fight’.

Vivienne Westwood addresses the crowds - Photograph by Dean Baybutt
Vivienne Westwood addresses the crowds – Photograph by Dean Baybutt

The protest left me feeling overwhelmed due to the amount of local people banding together on an issue. It was astounding to see so many members of the local community together. I came away learning the important lesson that we should not jump to stereotypes. There is no stereotypical protestor, but instead there are many individuals coming together in one voice.

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