On Wednesday morning activists entered Scottish Coal's Mainshill Open Cast Coal Site in South Lanarkshire to disrupt coaling operations. As two activists managed to reach and scale a huge 260 tonne “prime mover” in the bottom of the pit, one of the two biggest machines on the site, other activists there to support them were brutally attacked by Scottish Coal employees and Trustcare Security.
The action lasted for over 4 hours before a specialist police team from Glasgow removed the people occupying the excavator, which was in the process of loading coal from the seam on to dump trucks. Police arrested four people, two of whom were only supporting the action, and all have been charged with aggravated trespass.
Fiona Reed who was at Mainshill said: “We were attacked from the minute we entered the site. At no point were we confrontational or threatening, we just wanted to do the action safely so that no one got hurt. First of all huge dump trucks were deliberately driven at us and tried to box us in, then the excavator driver swung the machine's bucket at us, blatantly disregarding all health and safety rules. Most deaths and accidents that occur on opencasts are because of how dangerous these dump trucks are. A lot of people's lives were put at risk. We were then pounced on by workers and site security who punched us in the head repeatedly, threw us to the ground and kicked us in the back. They also stole our video camera.”
Jim Slater, another activist at the site said: “We were all threatened with being stabbed by a worker, and the people on the machine were told by an operations manager that as soon as the support had gone they were going to get beaten up. The site manager Steve Griffiths watched all this happen and was totally indifferent to it. Security has no right whatsoever to act like that.”
Despite the assaults, theft and threats the excavator was prevented from moving any coal from the coal seam for over four hours, causing much disruption to Scottish Coal's operations at the mine. Last year, after a 7-month occupation of the site by the Mainshill Solidarity Camp, over 70 people were evicted from the site, with 45 being forcibly removed and arrested.
Rachael Wood who has been involved in the campaign since the Mainshill occupation said: “Actions have continued in the area and at Mainshill since the eviction to do exactly what our banner read: Defend the Douglas Valley. Wednesdays assaults are merely one of a long history of abuse by Scottish Coal in the valley. Our actions will only intensify because of this until they leave the valley – no threat or physical assault could put us off.”