A student at the University of Bristol was arrested today at the Clifton Triangle’s Barclays branch during a protest against the bank’s funding of fracking and the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The student prevented the manager of the Barclays branch from washing off graffiti spelling out ‘Toxic Bankers’ on the walls of the bank, according to eyewitness and one of their fellow participants in the protest.
The protest was organised by activist organisation, Bristol Rising Up, which describes themselves as an organisation which ‘facilitates active participation in social change as a response to social and environmental injustice’ on their Facebook page.
‘It was a lawful protest’
‘The only crime that would feasibly be committed is damage to property, but the paint used was chalk paint so it comes off with water,’ a student protester explained to Epigram.
A police officer at the scene also confirmed that the demonstration was legal, however there were mixed reactions from onlookers.
@bbcpointswest Nothing better to do obviously on a Friday. Should arrest them for criminal damage.
— Roni (@Gasperoni27) May 5, 2017
Barclays has been named among several other major banks as investors in the Dakota Access Pipeline project in the US.
According to the BBC, the multi-billion dollar project would ‘provide a more cost-effective, efficient means’ of transporting crude oil across four states in the US than by transporting the oil by train. It would also increase profit margins for oil companies.
The project has sparked international protest from environmentalist groups, arguing that the project will perpetuate investment in fossil fuel production.
Despite the lawful nature of today’s protest in Clifton, one Bristol student decided to write her lawyer’s number on her body in the event of an arrest.
— Emily Faint (@EJFaint) May 5, 2017
One protester, who wishes to remain anonymous, spoke to Epigram about the motivations behind today’s protest:
‘Between 2013 and 2015, Barclays invested almost 48 billion pounds in coal, oil and gas, the most of any bank in the UK.
‘What’s more, they own 97% of Third Energy, a company which wants to frack Ryedale in North Yorkshire, in a community that opposes it. Today, Rising Up have been expressing their right to lawful protest to raise awareness of what this bank is funding.
‘I’m shocked that the police think it’s a valuable use of their resources to arrest, detain and undermine a peaceful protester.’
Today’s protest comes in the wake of yesterday’s protest at a Bristol Barclay’s branch which saw two protester’s climb on to the roof of the bank, causing disruption to the branch’s opening hours.
— troypointphotography (@troyspictures) May 4, 2017
Stuart Basden, a spokesperson from Bristol Rising Up told Epigram in response to the arrest:
‘A person dressed in a penguin suit used chalk spray to write #ToxicBankers Frack Off on the front of Barclays, an action that a police officer present at the time stated was a lawful act.
‘However, when the bank manager tried to wash away the evidence of their crimes with a mop, the “penguin” attempted to stand in the way of the bank’s white-washing of its crimes, and the police officers present chose to protect the mop over the penguin.’
‘the police officers present chose to protect the mop over the penguin’
Basden confirmed that today’s event was part of a nationally coordinated movement by Rising Up against Barclay’s ‘shameful connection’ to the fracking industry.
‘Fracking destroys drinking water, and would cost the British public dearly in terms of health and damage other sectors such as agriculture and tourism,’ he said.
A Barclays spokesperson also commented on today’s incident.
‘The safety of our staff and customers is of utmost importance to us and only the police can comment on why they considered it necessary to arrest a student protester.’
In response to the coordinated protests against Barclays’ involvement in fracking, they said:
‘Through Global Natural Resources Investments, Barclays has a majority stake in Third Energy: a British business with a history of investment and good corporate citizenship in North Yorkshire. Third Energy has been drilling, developing and producing gas in the region for over 20 years, with an excellent environmental and safety record.
‘We are conscious of the concerns of local communities and other groups over potential environmental and community impacts, which we take seriously and will continue to monitor. We have worked closely with Third Energy to ensure their plans are compatible with our values.’
It is not yet clear whether the student in question will face charges.
Epigram has contacted the Avon & Somerset police for comment regarding today’s arrest.
Did you see today’s protest, and do you agree with it? Do you believe the arrest was justified? Share any photos or footage you took today to our social media pages.