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MP arrested at fracking protest
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has been arrested as anti-fracking campaigners staged a series of protests around the country.
Ms Lucas was among at least 25 people who were arrested after protesting outside the gates of energy firm Cuadrilla's drilling site in Balcombe, West Sussex, where hundreds demonstrated against fracking.
Opponents of the controversial process for extracting shale gas also blockaded the headquarters of Cuadrilla while others superglued themselves to a PR company used by the energy firm. The series of protests and direct action marked the first of two days of "mass civil disobedience" which campaigners have pledged to carry out to highlight their stance against fracking.
As she was arrested at Balcombe, Ms Lucas said she was trying to stop a process which could cause enormous damage for decades to come, undermining efforts to tackle climate change and posing risks to the local environment.
She said: "People today, myself included, took peaceful non-violent direct action only after exhausting every other means of protest available to us. Despite the opposition to fracking being abundantly clear, the Government has completely ignored the views of those they are supposed to represent. When the democratic deficit is so enormous, people are left with very little option but to take peaceful, non-violent direct action."
The MP had been sitting 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. Protesters also claimed that Ms Lucas's son had been arrested. Sussex Police said protesters had been arrested as officers moved in to clear a large group of people in front of an emergency access to the site. More than 400 officers have been deployed on the operation at Balcombe, with support from 10 other UK forces.
Protest group No Dash for Gas accused police at Balcombe of "an extremely aggressive response" to the demonstration, claiming officers charged, shoved and kettled protesters, including disabled people and children. Earlier Sussex Police said on Twitter that protesters were not being kettled and were free to leave the site as they wished.
No Dash For Gas also said 20 protesters shut down the Cuadrilla site in Lichfield by blockading it with their bodies. It said two people inside the building had also hung banners from it saying: "Reclaim the power" and "Power to the people". In London six protesters superglued themselves to the glass door of Bell Pottinger and deployed reinforced arm tubes to stop anyone else getting inside. Another activist climbed the High Holborn building and unfurled a banner bearing the words: "Bell Pottinger - fracking liars".
Sussex police said a total of 29 people were arrested during the demonstration for a range of public order offences. Those arrested ranged from a 15-year-old girl from Brighton, to a 66-year-old man from Hythe, Southampton, with the majority of alleged offences including refusing to leave and obstructing a public highway, and breaching the public order act.
A 17-year-old girl from South Brent, Devon was arrested for possession of an offensive weapon while a 23-year-old man from London and 26-year-old from Lancaster were held for assaulting a police officer. Daniel White, 19, of no fixed address, will appear at Crawley Magistrates' Court on September 4 for using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress during an incident in which private land next to the site was accessed on Friday.