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Patrick Sawyer’s article in the Telegraph today (Sunday December 22nd) – Fracking protests head north as activists mass on proposed Manchester shale gas exploation sites  – is a classic attempt at framing activists who support community struggles, in this case against IGas and fracking, as unwanted ‘outsiders’ parachuting in and not taking local issues and needs into account. It perniciously uses xenophobic connotations around ‘foreigners’ and ‘outsiders’ who seemingly have no place in one which is not ‘their own’ to justify this position.
No Dash for Gas is a network from all over the country involving a diversity of people from all walks of life, social backgrounds and activist groups. Monday’s wind turbine blade action should be seen as a solidarity action in response to calls from local groups — including Frack Free Greater Manchester and Salford as part of the Northern Gas Gala.
To choose a second generation Polish and British Asian activist from our group to try and push this message, plays into racialised ideas of the Outsider at a time when attitudes towards immigrants are becoming more and more hostile as the manipulations of employers, landlords and this government pitch working class people against eachother in the name of keeping people divided in work and communities, in order to serve the race to the bottom.
The fact that local Salford activists who have been much more vocal and prominent in the campaign have been overlooked and Aneaka and Ewa targeted instead shows how this xenophobic agenda is being pursued here.
On the issue of jobs — the idea that the Fracking industry has working class peoples’ interests at heart or that it could bring mass employment to the UK is a myth, as empty as the one now thoroughly discounted, which was that fracking will bring down fuel bills. Job creation would be in the low thousands compared to an estimated million climate jobs that could be created if the UK took climate change seriously and began to roll out a housing insulation drive, a publicly and community-controlled renewable energy system, better public transport, and conservation and demand reduction initiatives. These ideas don’t serve the agendas of IGas and other fossil fuel companies so we rarely hear about them. You can hear about them here: www.campaigncc.org/greenjobs
The article is also factually plain wrong. Both Ewa and Aneaka do have a connection to the area.
Ewa worked as a union organiser for the then TGWU in Salford for two years and also lived in Manchester for three — no mention of this in Patrick’s piece. The use of her photo with ‘Of Poland’ underneath implies again, she is not from ‘here’ or one of ‘us’. Anti-Eastern European racism is a growing reality in the UK and this piece plays into these social anxieties, traumas and ideas. Similarly, questions must be asked about the journalist’s choice of a photo of Ewa wearing a Palestinian headscarf. Is this an attempt to tap into Islamophobia to try and further discredit her as an ‘outsider’?
Aneaka has lived in Manchester for over three years and continues to do so, living less than ten miles away from the IGas site. She has worked in the community, supporting residents there since the first announcements of intentions to drill by IGas and is popular and respected by many local residents. But maybe because of her name and skin colour, the Telegraph feels it can try and label her an ‘an outsider’ in order to justify pro-fracking agendas.
As a group we reject all xenophobia and racism and the separation of us into ‘foreigners’ or ‘outsiders’ where some of us have no right to speak or act, when what we’re facing – the struggle for democracy and equality and a safe climate – is a collective fight that everyone can be part of.
The Telegraph should be ashamed of peddling lies and xenophobia as millions around the world suffer from poverty and climate change which knows no borders and which the fracking industry, if it gets off the ground here, will be fuelling.
No Dash for Gas Press: 07746 339931 / 07447 027112