Vaguely Reminiscent of the ’70’s: Successful Occupation of British Site Drives Off Frackers For Now

Brit occupation of pad siteA long time and many galaxies ago, German citizens began occupying the construction site of the Weihl nuclear power plant in hopes of bringing the project to an end. Over 10,000 local residents flooded into the site and established not only an encampment, but an extension of the village itself, complete with school, library and governing council. The idea of such demonstration spread throughout the world, including here in the US, where the Seabrook, New Hampshire occupation in 1977 brought 2000 people out in one of the largest mass acts of civil disobedience in the US, and Texas where there were over over 200 arrests at the Comanche Peak site from 1979 to 1981.

Taking a page from this history, British fracking foes recently established an occupation of a pad site in Balcombe, West Sussex. Approximately 1000 people showed up for at least a six-day "Reclaim the Power Camp" that resulted in energy firm Cuadrilla suspending its operations until "it is safe " to resume them. Yes, nothing so frightening as British villagers.

While the original German protests did result in nuclear power plant cancelations, all the imitations since then have realized their power as symbolic protests. In Texas, the arrests at Comanche Peak were used to put the power plant on trial in Glen Rose itself – a trial that resulted in a hung jury and a huge PR victory at the time. Of course, you can recall that symbolic protest next time you drive by the completed nuke south of Granbury.

So far, no US group has adopted the occupation tactic to protest fracking in domestic gas fields, choosing larger mainstream mass legal actions like marches and rallies to express their displeasure instead. But maybe it's time to pick a pad and make a stand.

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