Category: Freedom Ride

Support Tony and George

Lobby outside Sheffield Magistrates Court, Castle Street S3 8LU

Monday 8th December at 9am


Tony Nuttall and George Arthur were violently arrested by British Transport Police at a Freedom Riders rally in Sheffield station on June 23rd.

This followed a series of peaceful mass ‘Freedom Rides’ by elderly and disabled pass holders from March 31st. They are charged with obstructing the police and not having a valid ticket and are summonsed for a 5 day trial.

Free bus from Barnsley 8.15am provided by Unite the Union. To book a seat on the bus please call 07758 836854.

Download the flyer: Freedom rider version 2

Up and Coming action from the Freedom Riders

Reminder about what’s happening over next week:

Monday 27th October 11.30am – meet at Sheffield Town Hall to march to the Sheffield offices of the PTE to lobby and present our consultation figures.

Thursday 30th October 11am – Next open meeting for Freedom Riders Barnsley library.

Monday 3rd November 1pm – meet at SYPTE Barnsley office 18 Regent Street to lobby the next Transport Committee meeting – we have agreement that Tony can make a 5 minute presentation to Committee so we want to make sure he has lots of support.

Freedom Ride Consultation

George Arthur describes the next move for the South Yorkshire Freedom Riders

GeorgeArthur_LoResThe Freedom Ride open meeting last Thursday saw lots of us coming together and planning our next activities.

We agreed to organise our own consultation about train travel and will be meeting at Barnsley Bus Station at 10.30am this Wednesday morning, to set up our consultation tables with our own consultation sheets and boxes to put completed forms in, which we will hand to the Transport Committee. A copy of the sheet is available for download below. Please use it with friends and neighbours if you can and return at our next meeting or event.

The Sheffield Freedom Riders will be using this at Sheffield bus and train stations. Perhaps Doncaster and Rotherham will be able to do this as well?

We want to make this consultation as large as possible. If we get sheets which show people disagreeing with us that is all part of the democratic process we want to show SYPTE.

Our next meeting is on Thursday 16th at 11am in the Council Chamber in Barnsley Town Hall! It will be an excellent meeting place for us I hope we can more that fill the chamber to discuss what we have done and to discuss our next plans.

I was invited to speak about our campaign to the North Staffs Pensioners Convention in Stoke on Saturday. They were very impressed with what we have done and have sent their congratulations to us. I hope that we will keep good links with this group who are very active themselves. One of them told me about how they ‘hijacked’ a bus to advertise one of their campaigns!

Hope to see you Wednesday 8th at Barnsley bus station. We are planning to repeat the consultation on other days, most probably on Friday at 10.30am.

Download the survey here: Consultation document

Freedom Ride Spreads!


Regular readers of our blogs will be well familiar with the heroic Freedom Riders from South Yorkshire, who have been fighting to retain free travel for disabled and retired people for six months now.

As you know, action inspires more action and the fight for free travel had been taken up by Unite Community members in our South East region now too.

Read all about it here and check out these fantastic pictures. Solidarity Forever!

Rebels on a journey to defend free travel pass

Originally published in the Daily Mirror, by Ros Wynne-Jones.

Ros Wynne-Jones meets a growing movement of hundreds of pensioners and disabled people in South and West Yorkshire, the two men have refused to accept cuts to their free services and have been refusing to pay their fares.

Arriving at the former offices of the National Union of Mineworkers in Barnsley, 30 years after the Miners’ Strike, I’m seeking an Arthur who has clashed with police and is seen as a political agitator.

But instead of finding Scargill, the former miners’ leader, I’m met by George Arthur, a retired primary school teacher of 64, from the Barnsley Retirees Action Group. He arrives with Tony Nuttal, a 66-year-old grandfather and former health service manager. Both are wearing white badges saying “Freedom Riders”.

Part of a growing movement of hundreds of pensioners and disabled people in South and West Yorkshire, the two men have refused to accept cuts to their free services and have been refusing to pay their fares.

On June 23, they were in a group of elderly and disabled people who were “kettled” by police on a train platform.

Shocking footage showed a frail Tony being heavily restrained by British Transport Police. As the video circulated around social media – with almost 5,000 shares on the Mirror site alone – George and Tony became heroes.

“Ordinary people just keep getting stitched up by austerity,” one fan of the Freedom Riders told me when I joined them on a march through Barnsley town centre.

George and Tony shake their heads. “We’re just the ones the authorities decided were the ringleaders,” George says. “But we don’t have leaders, we’re a democratic movement.” When Labour introduced a national scheme for free bus passes in 2000, South and West Yorkshire councils added on free train travel for pensioners and disabled people from 9am.

“They recognised that rural bus ­services were slow and often infrequent,” Tony says. “And it was thought the health and social benefits of getting older and disabled people out and about easily outweighed the cost.”

But on February 6, South Yorkshire Transport Authority voted to scrap free train travel and restrict bus times, affecting more than 268,000 travel pass holders. They said this would make savings of £600,000.

When the 300 Yorkshire Freedom Riders arrived at Barnsley train station, they found lines of police waiting for them. “They told us they were there for our safety,” George says. “Then Paul Brown, the rail company manager, told us we were free to travel – we could have a discretionary day.”

The Freedom Rides became weekly, and would usually end at Meadowhall Shopping Centre with a rally with other Freedom Riders from Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield – and the chance of a bit of shopping before heading for home.

On more than one occasion, the riders managed to outwit the police. Several times, police were left standing on the wrong platform.

The protesters have not only won huge public support but the backing of trade unions including ASLEF, RMT, BFAWU and Unite, which are paying George and Tony’s legal costs.

“A lot of the Freedom Riders have really grown in confidence during the last few weeks,” Tony says. “There are so many lonely elderly and disabled people out there and there has been a real sense of community around the protests.

“Some people wonder what they’re going to do once it’s all over.”

By week five, the train station was “swarming” with police who prevented the Riders getting on. Then, in May, helped by a legal challenge brought by the Sheffield Citizens Advice Bureau, the Riders won a massive victory – free travel on local trains would be restored for disabled people and their carers from June 8, along with half-price train travel in South Yorkshire for OAPs.

But the disabled riders said they wouldn’t leave their elderly comrades behind, and have continued to join in their protests.

“We will support the pensioners until they get the same as us,” said Carol Green, 64, who is blind and attends the protests in a wheelchair with her disabled daughter, Rebecca, 40.

The South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive says changes were made following “customer feedback”.


But the SYPTE deputy interim director general David Young added: “Budget pressures remain and funding does not exist to further enhance the concessionary scheme.

“I would remind protesters that travelling on a train without a valid ticket is in breach of rail bylaws and can result in a fine.”

The protests turned serious on June 23, when transport police and Freedom Riders clashed at Meadowhall station.

Tony was charged with obstructing police and both he and George were charged with failure to pay a train fare. For legal reasons, I am limited as to what I can write about what happened that day until after the court hearing.

A trial date for both men has been set for December. But in the meantime, regular protests and rallies are ­continuing.

Thirty years after the miners’ strike, Barnsley’s Retiree Action Group is not for turning. Having won concessions, campaigners scent victory in the air.

Report and update from Saturday’s Demonstration on 19/07/2014

Another great day. Threats of thunderstorms; many people taking part in a demonstration against the English Defence League in Hexthorpe; many others demonstrating in Sheffield and Rotherham about the tragedy in Gaza yet we still had over 100 turned up for the Barnsley demonstration. Large numbers wearing the Freedom Ride t-shirts, banners and placards and lots of singing and chanting made a great impression.

One of our supporters has been fined £150 by Northern Rail for travelling without a ticket. Over £150 was collected at our rally, quite a bit given by people passing by and hearing what had happened.

Tosh McDonald from ASLEF turned up to give his union’s support again at a very enthusiastic rally outside the bus station.

We had a symbolic walk round to the platform where Northern Rail got into a panic, trying to lock the gate.

The rally agreed that the next Freedom Ride will be on Monday 28th July at 11am at Barnsley train station.

Barnsley Council is meeting this Thursday at 10.30am and they will have the minutes of the transport committee on the agenda which made the decision about changing the concessions. We are having a lobby outside the town hall from 9.30am, come along at whatever time you can manage. And contact your local councilors before Thursday – ask them to stop and speak to us outside to discuss our ideas for returning the train concessions. We want them to say whether they support us.

At 11am on Thursday we have an open planning meeting at Barnsley library – come along if you can.

A number of people have put in complaints about what happened to them at Sheffield station. Let me know if you have done that as well. I have details of what to do in making a complaint if you want to make one.

Arrested train cuts protesters appear in court

Two pensioners who were arrested during a protest against travel cuts appeared at Sheffield Magistrates Court today.

Two pensioners who were arrested during a protest against travel cuts appeared at Sheffield Magistrates Court today.

More than 100 protesters gathered outside the court in Snig Hill as Tony Nutall, aged 66, of Church Street, Jump, Barnsley, and George Arthur, aged 64, of Honeywell Grove, Barnsley. appeared to face charges of obstructing police during the Freedom Ride protest at Sheffield Station on June 23.

They pleaded not guilty to the charges and face trial by magistrates on December 8.

They will also appear for a case management hearing on October 21.

The pair were bailed unconditionally – a condition which was requested by the prosection for them not to travel on the South Yorkshire rail network without a valid ticket was removed after Mr Arthur said his local Elsecar station did not have a ticket machine for him to buy one in advance.

Protesters waved banners and made speeches via megaphone outside the court before and after the preliminary hearing.

Tony and George were arrested during protests by the Freedom Riders group and Barnsley Retirees Action Group at the train station, where they had been protesting cuts to travel passes for disabled and elderly people.

Free train travel for disabled people has been reinstated by South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, but the group is continuing to fight for free train travel for the elderly.

A video of Mr Nuttall’s arrest went viral after it was sent in by Star reader and protester Jen Dunstan.

A meeting of the Barnsley Retirees Action Group will be held at the Blind & Partially Sighted Association in Back Reget Street, Barnsley, at 11am on Wednesday.

Mr Nuttall said: “I feel really upset about the way things have been handled. But our campaign is made up of literally dozens and dozens of elderly and disabled people who have stuck together, who have shown solidarity together.”

Originally published in the Sheffield Star by Alex Evans.

Watch the video.

Freedom Ride Solidarity Demo

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Unite Community members were out in force this morning supporting two of our members in Sheffield Magistrates Court.

A fantastic show of solidarity meant that well over 200 Trade Unionist activists and Freedom Ride campaigners cheered the two freedom riders as they entered the court room, who banned defendants and their supporters from wearing our Freedom Ride t shirts.

Unite the Union provided transport, printing and are supporting the pair legally, lots of new community members signed up today but we need to grow the community branch even further, so we can continue the fight back. Agitate, educate, organise!

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Freedom Ride at DPAC


London and South Yorkshire #FreedomRide & Sheffield DPAC Campaigners join in DPAC uk #SAVEILF action!The FreedomRide Campaigners were invited to send a speaker to a DCPAC UK /SAVE ILF picnic outside the DWP building on Friday July 4th.

Jennifer Dunstan of the FreedomRide campaign, Sheffield DPAC and South Yorkshire Unite community group  and Gareth Lane of UNITE community union, travelled down from Sheffield to attend and speak at the event with a message of solidarity from the South Yorkshire FreedomRide campaign and also to inform and update the SAVE ILF protesters of the recent developments in the FreedomRide campaign.

It was a very hot day but that didn’t put the protesters off, people were enjoying sandwiches and beautifully presented cupcakes that had been donated and were being handed out to the crowd including vegan chocolate cupcakes that Jennifer had made and donated to the picnic as they listened to speeches and songs.

The mood was congenial but also full of determination, there was a lot of support for the FreedomRide campaign and the Group were delighted to be able to see the South Yorkshire Unite Community Banner and to have it on display at their event.

There were several independent and affiliated Journalists present including Demonix, BBC, The Mirror columnists that writes the ‘Real Britain’ column and several online bloggers were putting out live streams of the speeches and songs as well as passing through the crown interviewing individual activists.

An IMPORTANT observation of this fantastically organised event to note is that the DPAC group had organised a BSL SIGNER to stand next to speakers and translate to deaf or none speaking activists.

The fact that there was a SIGNER there made the event much more accessible and also increased *attendance* this meant that the words of the speakers were much more far-reaching.  Which not only lends power to the campaign but also to the people that are directly affected by these austerity cuts!

Jennifer’s talk about the FreedomRide Campaign was streamed live online and was well received, the SAVE ILF campaigners were really proud of the actions and demos held so far and sent many of messages of solidarity through Jen back to the Campaign.  At the end of the picnic the SAVE the ILF campaigners joined in with the FreedomRide song ‘FREEDOM TO RIDE’ which was absolutely fantastic!

The protesters then packed up and marched to Westminster, with their banners and placards accompanied by the South Yorkshire UNITE community banner.

They then promptly and with confidence and determination, marched, wheeled and skipped in coordination on to Victoria Street and completely blocked it off,chanting “SAVE THE ILF” over and over and with vigour!

The blockade was well executed, it was colourful, vibrant and well supported by the many and varied DPAC and SAVE ILF placards banners t shirts and art work.

There are many articles, pics and vids  online including this one… where you can see the FreedomRide campaigners chanting in unison with the protesters it really was a fabulous display of joint campaign solidarity, although the action was very much the product of the SAVE ILF campaign, it was wonderful to see these separate anti cuts campaigns joining in active protest and we sincerely hope that there will be more and widespread networked and coordinated anti austerity actions throughout the counties especially from major cities, it really is time overdue that the Government sit up and listen to the people that their decisions are damaging.

The police soon arrived at the Victoria Street site in their dozens, two inspectors, many sergeants and PCs attended, there were 6 riot vans that parked up strategically and the gates and fences of westminster abbey were heavily guarded, not to mention the branch of Barclays bank much to everyone’s puzzlement.

At last count before the South Yorkshire reps left, the were over 4 police officers to each DPAC/SAVE ILF campaigners.

To our knowledge there were no arrests although there was a failed attempt by police to remove the blockade with a false report of an ambulance approaching the site and needing access to pass through Victoria Street.  Please note that the protesters did move aside diligently and with the utmost respect for the report of the impending ambulance pathway but however it turned out to be a police tactic to disrupt the blockade.  As soon as it became apparent that there was indeed no Ambulance approaching, the protesters took up their positions in the road and continued to campaign.

The police manouvered into positions which seemed to be a an attempt to create a kettle formation and also verbally informed to protesters that they would be starting to make arrests if they didn’t disband the blockade.

The protesters made a collective decision on a time to close the action and when they finished they cheered and blew whistles in victorious celebration.

There has been lots of disgruntled drivers but also plenty of support from passers by and people tooting horns and giving thumbs up in support as the police redirected traffic.  Some passers by joined and physically stood with the blockade, even shaking hands and posing for photos in support.

There was so much online coverage but one particularly poignant tweet from @SophEpartridge really sums up the importance of protecting the ILF:

“If you were told your independent life was going to be cut and you may go 2 a nursing home, you’d stop traffic”.

We met and chatted to many protesters who had all benefited greatly from the ILF including one campaigner called “Matt” who told us he had just completed his masters degree in film, it had taken him 7 years and without the ILF he would never have been able to access the course let alone complete it.  This campaign isn’t just a out money it’s about access to a right of a decent standard of living, of lifting barriers to independent living and of society supporting people where their individual needs or ability prevent to access to work, education, other essential services and even communication with other members of society.

For more information on the campaigns go to :
Justice for Tony & George
Flicker link to photos excellently documenting the day.

Defend the Freedom Riders

We are encouraging as many Unite members as possible to come and support our Community Members in court on Monday please. See the link here for more information or contact Joe Rollin.Campaigning funds are urgently needed. Please visit this page and scroll down to the make a donation button if you can help.

Today reps from UNITE MHAG SP SWP UKuncut Sheffield and Sheffield DPAC attended a lobby in Barnsley.

At the Sheffield station they met Sheffield born Actor, Thomas Craig (where the heart is, Coronation St) who was passing by and he pledged his support to the #FreedomRide campaign.

On the way to the lobby campaigners met an RMT train guard, he also pledged his full support to the campaign and took a handful of flyers to put in the staff canteen. The Campaigners took this opportunity to pledge solidarity with the transport staff and vowed to oppose the impending cuts.

#FreedomRide Campaigners from Barnsley, Doncaster and Sheffield  gathered for Transport Exec lobby on Regent St at 1pm.

Standing in a group around 100 strong they listened to accounts from George Arthur and Tony Nuttall of their ordeal at Sheffield train station at the hands or the British Transport Police and of the actions taken since

There were representatives from TUC, NUT, SWP, Sheffield DPAC, Sheffield MHAG, UKUNCUT-Sheffield, Unison, BRAG (Barnsley Retirees Action Group – who have been spearheading the campaign) and UNITE COMMUNITY freedom riders and members of the public as well as press from Barnsley Chronicle and BBC radio Sheffield.

Speeches were heard by George Arthur, Tony Nuttall, Fran Postlethwaite, Ian Wallis and a rep from LEEDS UNISON retirees who attended with a statement of solidarity from his Union members which he read out to the crowd, There was a man from the Shetlands who was visiting the area and came to support the campaign too!

David Young and his colleagues were heckled as they entered the building passing the crowd there were cries of ” shame” and “Bully” and ” where’s our money?”

Ian Wallis spoke of his assault and injuries sustained at  the hands of the BTP and informed the #Freedom Riders that he has lodged an official complaint about this, and is appealing for footage and witnesses.

Fran Postlethwaite spoke of the importance of realising the connections between this campaign and anti cuts and anti austerity campaigns all over the country and stated solidarity with all other campaigns of this nature.

She also spoke of the completely unacceptable way in which the peaceful #FreedomRide protest had been policed and of how demonstrators had been intimidated which was poignant as SYP had sent 4 police officers and a PCSO to police the lobbyists today.

Fran read out a list of union leaders and other signatories who have already signed the open letter of support of Tony and George and the #FreedRide Campaign and appealed for wide spread sharing of this document.

Ann Scargill was passing on her way to her voluntary work supporting homeless people and she took the time to greet some of the campaigners and do a #FreeRide selfie with a campaign leaflet- thank you Ann!

There was word of widespread support for the #Freedom Ride demonstration outside Sheffield Magistrates Court on July 7 2014, particularly from UNITE who have produced leaflets and campaign materials for the demonstration.

The group sang campaign songs “we shall not be stopped” and ” we’ve got the freedom to ride” before cheering, shaking hands, and giving each other greetings of solidarity.

The next action will be later in the week in Barnsley – email for details or to be added to the mailing list.

The overall mood of the group was vibrant, positive and determined to see this campaign through to a conclusion of everyone’s satisfaction in other words, the campaigners will not stop until the OAP pass holders have their travel rights fully re-instated.

There will be a lobby outside Sheffield Magistrates Court 7 July at 9:15am so far around 300 people from across south yorks are expected to attend with individual and group delegates from several organisations including the Durham Miners.

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