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For Peat's Sake

HATFIELD MOOR is an ecologically vital system for over 5,500 species and the subject of a campaign to save it from peat mining since the 70's. A recent deal by English Nature, meant that while the government paid Scotts 17.3 million to stop mining at three sites throughout the country, Scotts have been given two more years to dig at Hatfield Moor, which will irreversibly damage the peat bog. Peat Alert had already called a four day blockade of the peat works in the week leading up to the Easter Bank Holiday, the peat industry's busiest time.

An action camp for the four 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 30,000 worth of damage. (Scott's estimate)

When people turned up to crack the prison training/RAF base site on the Saturday morning, they found it had passed from the Ministry of Defence's hands into a private landowner. The landowner turned up and gave us permission to stay and 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, but all involved supported us. The campsite was a fortress, 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 other campaign groups asking what could they do to stop the blockade - all responded that they asked for it!

DAY ONE - 25th March: On the Monday morning the police were out in force with a helicopter, horses, dogs, landrovers and vans at the crossroads leading up to the peat works, and found some of our essential equipment while searching ditches. They tried to get a Section 60 (stop, search, demask) - at first denied but later granted - and a section 14 (designated protest area only) was put in place; between a post saying assembly start and point A. About 100 people left the 'Green Tree' pub at one o'clock. The Section 14 was read out, but a bicycle sound system played music and various instruments and drums were played. Police formed lines to stop the march. People continued on holding reinforced banners, padding, hard hats and masks. We decided to take the path of least resistance, running cross country and managed to seize 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), also targeting specific individuals. An hour later there were thirty eight arrests, and two that got away. All were released by 5AM (except one for refusing bail conditions) The bail conditions were not to go within two miles of the works. A police map-reading 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.

DAY TWO: On Tuesday some people went to a FoE demo. Others went out in small groups to try and find a lorry to blockade or went out on the moors ditch filling. The demo was meant to go to the works, but stayed in the designated protest area. Lorries were moved in convoy, with a heavy police escort. A large police presence near the works meant a cross country ambush was not possible. Three people on the south moors were arrested for breaking bail conditions, although they weren't and were eventually released without charge once we had shown the police how to map read.

DAY THREE: On Wednesday we planned to blockade and lock on to the lorry convoy as they stopped at a roundabout on the A18 - the new exit route for the lorries. The normal exit route was not being used as it passed too near to our campsite! Continued police surveillance stopped play, but they once again held up the lorries at the peat works, so that no convoys left while we were at the roundabout.

DAY FOUR: On Thursday we tatted down due to diminished numbers. Vehicles leaving site were pulled over and followed by motorcycle cops. We left the camp in a convoy of five vehicles with a six police car escort into Sheffield. Despite only being able to block the road for three and half hours on the Monday, we seriously disrupted Scotts operation throughout the week. A lorry normally leaves the peat works every four minutes during that week. We slowed it to about twenty every six hours. We received 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.

Many more people will now be back for both advertised and impromptu actions. Our next action will be a Mass Trespass on the moors on Saturday 11th May. It will be a chance to disrupt work and protest against the enclosure of common land that allows this ecological destruction to happen, and is also in remembrance of Benny Rothman from the 1932 Kinder Scout Mass Trespass who died recently. People will be going out and filling ditches, disrupting work between now and then and stickering and/or slashing the peat bags at Garden Centres. Why not join in!

Ring: 0778 7782259 or email: info@peatalert.org.uk and look at www.peatalert.org.uk,

Plus donations are very welcome! Please make cheques/P.O.s out to "Peat Alert" and send to: Peat Alert, c/o CRC, 16 Sholebroke Avenue, LEEDS LS7 3HB