A protester who led demonstrators in song at last summer’s anti-fracking protests in Balcombe was acquitted at Eastbourne Magistrates Court yesterday.
Author Simon Welsh, 35 of the High Street, Balcombe, is understood to be the only village resident arrested during last summer’s protests.
Speaking outside of court after the judge told him he was free to go, Simon said: “I feel elated, exhausted, delighted, exuberant, ecstatic, and so joyous.”
Later he talked to the Middy more about his arrest on September 10 last year and his subsequent journey through the British legal system.
“I was arrested for ‘wilfully ignoring three police officers attempting to read me Section 14 of the public order Act’, in effect asking me to move from where I was standing singing on the side of the road in front of the gates to the drilling site to the other side of the road to a designated protest area,” said Simon.
“I was leading people in song - I was holding a microphone of a loud hailer, and I was belting out lyrics to the alterative version of Jerusalem which I wrote, followed by the lyrics to the alternative version to God Save the Queen.” (see below)
While locked is a holding cell for seven hours at Crawley Police Station Simon wrote a poem (reproduced below).
“My legal council advised me to recite the poem to CID during my exit interview later the same day, and to answer ‘no comment’ to every other question asked.
“I followed his instructions.”
The trial took place over three days from March 18 to 20, with final judgement taking place yesterday (May 1, 2014).
Simon continued: “I was acquitted by a judge who when he met me really didn’t believe in matters of the heart, but during my acquittal today said that I was a most unusual defendant in the nicest possible way and although he struggled to understand what it meant to be in a bubble singing from my heart-space to the degree where I genuinely couldn’t recognise three officers attempting to speak to me - but by the time we were done he said he had to concede that I probably was telling the truth, even though it was completely outside of his regular understanding, which is quite extraordinary.”
Reflecting on the past seven months further, Simon added: “From a legal point of view totally bizarre; from a financial point a view a spectacular waste of money; from an emotional and spiritual point of view an incredible adventure that I would never choose to have had happen to me; and from a heart-based point of view an affirmation that the truth does really set oneself free.”
Around 125 people were arrested during the course of the demonstrations at the Lower Stumble well-site, Balcombe last summer - the majority of whom have been cleared of any wrongdoing in subsequent court proceedings.
The cost of the Sussex Police operation was in excess of £4 million.
This week, West Sussex County Council, granted permission for Cuadrilla to commence new works in the village to test-flow the well.
However, the energy firm has stated it does not intend to use the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, at the Balcombe well.
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SIMON’S POEM: Arrested for Singing (written while in custody at Crawley Police Station)
Today I was arrested for the power of my voice.
I didn’t get arrested by design or wilful choice.
They arrested me for singing with my blessed heart and soul.
Do they understand that freedom for humanity’s my goal?
They say I was arrested for ignoring what they said.
But that wasn’t how it happened in my heart or in my head.
I was standing in the crowd when the music set me free,
And in that heightened state let me explain what I could see:
Three men standing near me in the bustle and the noise
As we sang for hope and freedom: I was singing with the boys!
I looked into their eyes and I sang with all my heart,
And in that breath I saw that we’d been brothers from the start.
I did not see their helmets, did not register their word.
The lyrics and vibration of the anthem’s all I heard.
I did not see their authorship. All I saw was kin
And my heart confirmed this truth and welcomed these three brothers in.
The beauty of this moment was both empty and complete.
My eyes were streaming tears and I couldn’t feel my feet.
And then, without a warning, I was pounced upon and grabbed.
I started, then, to understand. The understanding stabbed:
These brothers work for forces that care nothing for the heart,
And, though the policing uniform’s presentable and smart,
It’s like the cell I’m sitting in: solid, square and bleak.
No room in here for questions or the answers that we seek.
The uniform, the cell: I think they truly are the same;
And in this felling I let go the need to point and shame.
Our brothers and our sisters - they are trying to do their best
In a system that is broken and that needs to be addressed.
But how does one address an institution of control
That’s been corrupted by an entity that does not have a soul?
The law has been corrupted by financial corporate might.
No ONE is responsible. There’s no one here to fight.
So how do we say ‘No’ to the Corporate agenda?
Who, if not the police, will be humanity’s defender?
As I sit here in this prison cell I know not what to do,
Though I feel the answer stirring in the hearts of me and you.
Tuesday 10th September 2013 ©Simon Welsh Poetry
SIMON’S ALTERNATIVE ‘JERUSALEM’: And did they frack?
And did they frack in ancient times?
Poisoning waters; once so clean?
And were their fil-thy rigs of doom
On England’s plea-sant-pastures seen?
And did the On-ly face of Truth
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And do the frackers know time is up
To use their dark sa-tanic drills.
Come join us here and sing your song:
Sing of the justice you desire.
Assist us NOW! These frackers are wrong.
We now remember: We’re the Choir.
We will not cease from camp-ing here,
Nor shall we rest till fracking’s banned.
Till we have kicked these frackers out
Of England’s green-and pleasant land.
5th August 2013 ©Simon Welsh Poetry