A new prison van, 40 new guards drafted in, and reckless policing of tractor movements
On Tuesday 2nd August Shell's work was halted for most of the day, only two tractors getting into the Aughoose compound by 3.30pm. There was a heavily increased garda presence with up to 40 guards being drafted in from Roscommon and elsewhere, and four arrests were made.
At 7am on Tuesday local residents and folks from the Rossport Solidarity Camp met at the gates of Shell's Ballanaboy refinery to stop any tractors from bringing equipment to the compound at Aughoose. Shell normally begin tractor movements right at 7, but since protesters were present they decided to wait until the Gardaí arrived rather than risk someone getting up on top of a tractor.
A few squad cars drove by to check things out in the morning, but everything was quiet for over 5 hours. There was a presence of 25 to 30 protesters for most of the morning. People chatted, played music, and had tea and scones in the sun, all the while blocking Shell.
Around 12 noon a prison van complete with 7 cells arrived on the scene, probably brought in from Galway or Dublin. There were also a couple paddy wagons, a few squad cars, and detective Brett Nolan's unmarked car- in total about 40 gardaí. They started to bring out the first tractor of the day at about 12:15pm, over 5 hours late.
Everyone ran down the road to get a good bit in front of the tractor and some people sat down linking arms and legs, a repeat of the technique that had been so successful on Thursday. However the 20 or so gardaí who were running alongside and in front of the tractor directed the tractor to swerve around the people sitting in the road, onto the verge. When people saw that the tractor was going around them they got up and ran after it. Lots of chaos, people getting thrown around by the guards, people standing in front of a tractor that wouldn't stop and was driving very fast and dangerously. At one stage the tractor wheel was within 6 inches of a local woman's head, but the driver still didn't stop. See the many photos for a better idea of what happened.
One person was running in the field along the public road on land owned by Coilte, and two guards tackled him to the ground and arrested him under the public order act, despite the fact that he was on private land. Within 30 minutes three more people had been arrested, all of them pretty random. The arrests were unlawful seeing as people hadn't been given warnings.
Shell got very little work done last week because of protesters, and it seems that the gardaí have changed their tactics this week in an effort to control the protests.
Rossport Solidarity Camp member Gillian Carlos comments, “there's no way the Gardaí will be able to maintain this level of policing for the next two years. It takes 30 guards running alongside one tractor to keep protesters from climbing the tractor or blocking the road, and in Shell's traffic management plan, the first month of construction is supposed to involve 159 truck movements a day.”
The red bus outside the refinery has been revived, and locals are starting to come out to the refinery gates in the mornings again. The roadblocks and the protests will continue, but more people are needed to sustain the levels of successful blockades that have been happening. Come up and see for yourself! An amazing bluegrass country gig in McGuire's Tuesday night got people together and lifted everyone's spirits. Belle Star is a band from Virginia in the states, check out the campaign they are involved in:
If you want to visit the camp there is plenty for everyone; join in the protests, or help in the garden, or help with site maintenance. The camp is located in a field in Aughoose, between Ballinaboy and Pullathomas.
Ring the camp at 0851141170 or email at rossportsolidaritycamp[at]gmail[dot]com