Four days of direct action at
the Scotts Peat works, Hatfield Moor, near Doncaster.
MONDAY 25TH- THURSDAY 28TH MARCH 2002
Hatfield Moor is an ecologically vital system for over 5,000 species. It has been the subject of a campaign to save it since the 70's.
Peat Alert have been disrupting work and taking direct action for over a year.
A recent deal by English Nature, meant that while the goverment payed Scotts £17.3 million to stop mining at three sites throughout the country,
Scotts have been given 2 more years to dig at Hatfield Moor, which will irreversibly damage the peat bog.
Peat Alert had already decided to call a four day blockade of the Peat Works in the week leading up to the Easter Bank Holiday,
the Peat industries busiest time.
An action camp for the 4 day blockade was planned for nearby.
Before the site was taken, both night-time and daytime actions to Hatfield Moor had been taking place.
Filling in ditches and blocking pipes to stop the peat being drained, plus other sabotage actions on the moors and at the works had caused at least £40,000 worth of damage.(Scotts estimate)
When people turned up to crack the prison training/RAF base site, on the Saturday morning, it had been passed from the Ministry of Defence's hands into a private landowner. The landowner turned up and after some discussion gave us permission to stay at the site and even gave us the keys to his hefty lock! The police put pressure on both the landowner to evict us and the Green Tree Pub where we were meeting for the street party. The cops told the pub we would barricade ourselves into the carpark. The landlady thought this was ridiculous - as it was!
The campsite was a fortress - and for once to our favour! Things remained from its MoD days complete with barbed wire rimmed fences and barricades, our own four flags flew from the old radar tower. An evidence gathering team was permanently stationed across from the site. The Anarchist Teapot provided a field kitchen and Generator X supplied us with wind and solar power. Before the blockade begun, Scotts were ringing various campaign groups pleading what could they do to stop the blockade.
On the Monday morning, day 1, the police had out a helicopter, police horses, dogs, landrovers and vans at the crossroads leading leading up to the peat works. Police had been searching ditches and found lock on equipment, a tripod and maybe other stuff that groups had been planning to use at exit points.They had tried to get a Section 60 (stop,search, demask) which was at first denied but later granted, A section 14 (designated protest area only) was in place; between a post saying assembly start and point A.
About 100 people left the 'Green Tree' pub at one o'clock. Section 14 was read out, but a bicycle sound system played music and various instruments and drums were played. The designated protest area was a pointless insult and didn't suit us - police formed lines to stop the march. People continued on holding reinforced banners, padding, hard hats and masks. However, we decided to take the path of least resistance so we ran cross country and managed to take the only exit road from the works.
The road was blocked for two and a half hours, with lorries unable to leave the works. 18 vans of cops in riot gear moved in, arresting everyone who stayed in the road (and some who didn't), targetting specific individuals. It took them a futher hour to clear the road. There were 35 arrests, and 2 that got away. All but one were released by 5 am (except one for refusing bail conditions) The bail conditions were not to go within 2 miles of the works. A police mapreading error meant that everyone COULD go back to the site, and onto the south moors where most of the peat extraction takes place. No lorries left the peat works that night.
On Tuesday, day 2, FoE had called a demo in front of the Peat Works, which some of our number attended. Others went out in small groups to try and find a lorry to blockade or going out on the moors ditch filling. The FoE demo was meant to go to the works, but was trapped in the designated protest area. Their presence unnerved the police enough to prevent most of lorries leaving the works whilst they remained there. This however also meant our small groups of blockading and locking-on teams couldn't get to the lorries to lock on. Lorries were later being moved in convoy, with a police escort of vans and motorcycles at the front and back of the convoy. This continued from the peat works and along the A18 to the motorway. Police vans were continually parked up along the long road leading from the peat works to the main road, so a cross country ambush was not possible. The lack of hedge cover and flat open land also worked against us. After crawling around and getting cover in ditches by the sides of roads all day groups decided to head back to site. People on the moors were eventually stopped by the police, three were arrested for breaking bail conditions (they were outside the two mile exclusion zone) they were eventually released without charge once we had shown the police how to map read.
On Wednesday, day 3, we had another cunning plan to blockade the lorries further away from the peat works. We planned to blockade and lock on to the convoy as they stopped at a roundabout on the A18 - the new exit route for the lorries. This would have prevented the lorries from leaving and getting on to the motorway. The normal exit route was not being used as it passed too near to our campsite! Groups of people left the site and travelled to train stations, getting to the location of the planned blockade. Other small groups went to the designated protest area or onto the moor as a decoy. There were so many police that whilst little groups streched our resources, the police were able to effectively monitor all of the groups and available train stations to find out where we were going. They once again held up the lorries at the peat works, so that no convoys left whilst we were at the roundabout. We hung around for a while to make sure they were not exiting our way, then headed headed back to the campsite.
On Thursday we realised in the morning meeting that the number of people on site had dwindled, lots of people had bail conditions and there wasn't enough people to defend and tat down the site as well as doing an effective action. We decided to tat down. This was done whilst being wathced by five police vans, who "had noticed a lot of activity and were wondering what was going on?" Any tat vehicles leaving the site were pulled over and followed by motorcycle cops all day - even when they were being lured into areas for a 'remember the miners strike kicking'. When we finally left the camp in a convoy of 5 vehicles they followed us again and pulled us over, when we finally set off again they continued with a 6 police car escort, all the way and into Sheffield. This was getting so ridiculous we pulled over and told them to go away, which they then did! Police used a massive amount of their resources and surveillance and continued harrassment. The helecopters were out each night beaming the
search light onto the campsite and moors - ever wondered why there is a mirror on site - well it can be useful for reflecting back their headlights and spotlights back against them - particularly effective against the helecopter!
All in all the week was considered to be a success. Despite only being albe to block the road for 3 and half hours on the Monday, we seriously disrupted Scotts operation throughout the week. When we are not there a lorry normally leaves the peat works every four minutes during that week. We managed to reduce it to about 20 every 6 hours. We acheived a lot of local support for defending the peat moors and gave more people a chance to see the ecological destruction that is peat mining. We also gained supprort against the police for their use of force on Monday, and their over policing on resources. Whilst most of South Yorkshire police were sitting opposite our campsite it took police in Sheffield 45 minutes to get to a shooting of a bus driver - and they claim they have justice with courage! Ha!ha!
Many more people will now be back for both advertised and improtu actions. Our next action will be a Mass Tresspass on the moors on Sat 11th May. It will be a chance to distupt work and protest against the enclosure of common land that allows this ecological destruction to happen, it will also be in rememeberance of Benny Rothman, from the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass who died recently. Meeting 12 noon, Tyrham Hall Hotel, A614 south of Hatfield Woodhouse. For more details click here . People will be going out and filling ditches, disrupting work between now and then and slashing the peat bags at Garden Centres. Why not join in!