GM Police have alleged that a flare was fired at or in to the path of a low flying police helicopter. They have used this to obtain search warrants to 'search' the protesters tents, and to also launch a PR campaign to split the growing relationship between local residents and protesters.
The following is a report from a local 'independent' online news source that includes direct quotes from protesters:
“Barton Moss protesters 'reject absolutely' helicopter flare claim
By Tom Rodgers
Campaigners at Frack Free Greater Manchester say the claim that protesters fired a flare at a police helicopter is a bare-faced lie and an excuse to search tents by Greater Manchester Police.
Police say a flare was fired into the approach path of a police helicopter landing at City Airport Barton in the early hours of Saturday 4 January.
It repeats a similar claim made by GMP on New Year's Eve that someone from the camp fired a flare at a police helicopter.
Ch Supt Roberts continued: "An attack on the police of this nature has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not exploratory drilling is right or wrong.
"Whilst I recognise the genuine concerns of many of the protesters in relation to exploratory drilling, it is obvious that there is also an element of regular protesters from outside the Greater Manchester area who seem more interested in seeking confrontation with the police."
But protesters on site say the claim is bogus and that no flare gun will be found.
Speaking to SalfordOnline.com from Barton Moss Road where three women have this morning chained themselves to concrete blocks, Brian, who has lived in Irlam for four years and has a tent on site, said: "If there has been someone firing 'flares' at helicopters it's probably a local kid with a firework.
"Police have been in and out of tents already - illegally - so this is just their way of searching on their own terms."
Rachel Thompson from Frack Free Greater Manchester told SalfordOnline.com today: "We refute absolutely these claims.
"We've not seen any evidence to prop this up, and until we do, it appears to be an excuse to show the camp in a bad light and to be able to get a warrant to search the camp."
Campaigners pointed out the "outrageous" and "aggressive" tactics employed by Greater Manchester Police throughout the campaign.
Sacha Conway, who is currently living at the camp, denied the claims and said: "No flare was fired from this camp on Saturday or any other day. We would condem any such action as aggressive, violent and in breach of our very strict safe spaces policy. We are peaceful people who wish to stop the destruction of this land by IGas and all of the other fracking companies."
Around 50 anti-fracking protesters are permanently stationed in tents on Barton Moss Road, some 200 yards from the entrance to the coal-bed methane and shale gas test drilling site currently occupied by energy firm IGas.
In recent weeks protests against the drilling have been stepped up, with protesters complaining about multiple arrests at Swinton police station, one man locking himself by the neck to a lorry on Barton Moss Road.
Protesters, or protectors, as they prefer to be known, are campaigning against the likely fracking that will occur in Salford if IGas are successful in finding shale gas during their drilling tests."