Category: Freedom Ride

Sheffield reporter threatened with arrest under anti-terrorism laws

James Mitchinson
Sheffield Star editor James Mitchinson said what happened to the reporter was absolutely unacceptable and the paper would be seeking an explanation

A reporter was threatened with arrest under anti-terrorism laws and forced to erase potentially important video evidence after filming a protest in Sheffield.

The editor of the Sheffield Star has demanded an explanation as to why his reporter, Alex Evans, was warned off filming a protest against cuts to free travel provision for pensioners and disabled people by British transport police officers on Monday.

Evans claims he was ordered to erase footage he’d recorded on his phone because he did not have permission to film on private property inside Sheffield station. When he initially resisted the request and continued to film, he says he was told he could be arrested under terror laws.

Shortly after he stopped filming, British transport police officers handcuffing and bundling away two men. The arrested men, aged 64 and 65, were taking part in the Freedom Ride, a long-running protest against cuts to free travel provision in South Yorkshire.

Evans claims he was ordered to erase footage he’d recorded on his phone because he did not have permission to film on private property inside Sheffield station. When he initially resisted the request and continued to film, he says he was told he could be arrested under terror laws.

James Mitchinson, editor of the Star, said on Tuesday: “What happened to our reporter Alex Evans yesterday was absolutely unacceptable and we will be seeking a full explanation of why he was treated in such a heavy-handed, threatening manner. To cite anti-terror laws is clearly nonsense. We have a right to report the news, and the Star will always fight for that right. Our readers expect nothing less.

“But this case illustrates just how difficult it can be to report the news, on the spot when, increasingly, authorities are seeking to ‘manage’ it.

“We’re well aware that Sheffield Station is, like all stations, technically private property, and ordinarily we’d need to seek permission to film there. But this wasn’t a PR stunt, it was an extraordinary event that couldn’t have been predicted and it was very much in the public interest that people were made aware of what was going on. As the local paper and website that’s our job, and it’s a job that people expect us to do.”

Evans claims British transport police told him the officer who asked him to delete his footage was part of Northern Rail’s rail response team. Northern Rail said it was trying to establish who made the request.

Though the reporter was prevented from filming the scuffles, members of the public managed to capture the arrests on their own phones.

The “rough” manner of the arrests have been criticised by organisers of the Freedom Ride demonstrations, which involve large groups of protesters all attempting to board the same train without buying a ticket.

Jen Dunstan, of Sheffield Disabled People Against the Cuts, told the Star: “Dozens of elderly and disabled people have been left with bruising. Some have cuts where their skin has broken from being pushed and shoved.

“A placid and calm gentleman was roughly manhandled. I am angry and shocked. The police are meant to protect elderly people.”

Northern Rail said in a statement: “Members of the media must have written permission from the train operator which manages the station before undertaking any filming on station property. Under no circumstances are Northern Rail employees to be filmed without prior agreement from the Northern Rail press office.”

A spokesman for British Transport Police said: “We were called upon to assist rail staff dealing with issues relating to an ongoing protest.

“As a result two people were arrested – on suspicion of travel fraud and obstructing a police officer – and the investigation into these alleged offences is ongoing.

“A number of separate incidents arising from these arrests, and involving police, have been brought to our attention. We are in the process of fully investigating these and will speak to all those involved.”

George Arthur, aged 64, and Tony Nuttall, 65, have been charged with failure to pay and obstructing police.

This story originally appeared in the Guardian.

Reporter Threatened With Arrest for Showing Arrest of Pensioner at Sheffield Station

Ugly scenes broke out at Sheffield station as OAPs were grabbed, handcuffed and arrested in protests over cuts to travel passes.

Two men, aged 65 and 64, were handcuffed, arrested and bundled away by British Transport Police officers – prompting outrage from Sheffield Disabled People Against The Cuts and Barnsley Retirees Action Group.

The two men have since been charged with failure to pay, and obstructing police.
Protesters were at the station after travelling without paying from Meadowhall to the city centre in their latest ‘Freedom Ride’. The group, a mix of elderly and disabled people, were campaigning against cuts to travel passes.

The Star’s reporter Alex Evans was threatened with arrest under the Terrorism Act – and made to delete video of protesters on the platform. (See Opinion, Page 14) . VIDEO HERE.
Jen Dunstan, of Sheffield Disabled People Against The Cuts, said: “Dozens of elderly and disabled people have been left with bruising. Some have cuts where their skin has broken from being pushed and shoved.

“A placid and calm gentleman was roughly manhandled. I am angry and shocked. The police are meant to protect elderly people.”

Yorkshire Ambulance Service was called after one protester passed out with breathing difficulties on the platform.

Fran Postlethwaite, aged 62, the wife of another of the campaigners, from Barnsley, said: “My husband was arrested by British Transport Police for absolutely nothing.
“He was completing a peaceful protest and doing nothing at all wrong and he was violently manhandled by police officers.

“We are just peaceful protesters and we are being treated like criminals.
“They pushed a woman over, and an old gentleman nearly fell on the rails when they were pushing.

“They even confiscated my megaphone.”

A spokesman for British Transport Police confirmed: “We were called upon to assist rail staff dealing with issues relating to an ongoing protest.

“As a result two people were arrested – on suspicion of travel fraud and obstructing a police officer – and the investigation into these alleged offences is ongoing.

“A number of separate incidents arising from these arrests, and involving police, have been brought to our attention. We are in the process of fully investigating these and will speak to all those involved.

“Clearly, we are still in the very early stages of all investigations and it would be inappropriate to comment further until we have been able to speak to all parties and clearly establish the facts.”

Star reporter Alex Evans was threatened with arrest by a Northern Rail staff member. A spokesman for the firm said: “Members of the media must have written permission from the train operator which manages the station before undertaking any filming on station property. Under no circumstances are Northern Rail employees to be filmed without prior agreement.”
Readers online were mixed in their views. Poster Micketh said: “Thank goodness the police are now doing their job. This has gone on long enough.”

But Gb1973 said: “I know the gentleman has obviously done wrong but, I’m sorry, he is still a pensioner. The police were too heavy handed with him.”

George Arthur, aged 64, and Tony Nuttall, 65, have been charged with failure to pay and obstructing police.

From The Star, 24 June 2014

Scunthorpe Steelworker’s message of support

Just a quick message of support for the Freedom Riders from Scunthorpe Steelworks Branch and both regional executive members.

If EC members or Scunthorpe Steelworks Branch can be of assistance please let us know.

Organise To Win! Freedom Ride: Standing up against the Cuts

frredom

The Campaign to save free travel for the disabled and pensioners in South Yorkshire now known as the Freedom Rides has been inspirational and it has already won a partial victory! Something to be celebrated for sure! But how did the campaign win this amazing concession?

On 31st March, elderly and disabled travel pass holders lost the extra concessions that had applied in South Yorkshire since travel passes had been brought in nationally. South Yorkshire agreed, like a number of other authorities, to give extra concessions because of the poverty that many elderly and disabled suffer in this region. That meant that disabled pass holders could travel free on buses and South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire buses free at any time of the day; elderly were able to travel free on buses and trains from 9am through to the end of the day.

On 6th February South Yorkshire Transport Authority voted to scrap free train travel for all disabled people and pensioners. The savings were £329,000 for ending train travel and £300,000 for restricting bus travel times. There are over 268,000 travel pass holders in South Yorkshire. The body making the decision, South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority, was made up of 12 councillors from across the region. The five councillors from Sheffield and the two from Barnsley, all voted for the cut while three from Doncaster and two from Rotherham voted to keep the concessions.

What caused great anger among those affected was that there was no publicity or consultation. It was the complete lack of debate and democracy that was too much for people to stomach.

But the Barnsley Retirees Action Group had other ideas and spear headed an amazing campaign of direct action that has inspired campaigners everywhere. They printed a few thousand leaflets calling a public meeting in the central library. 300 people turned up and the caretaker turned away another 50. The meeting grilled the two Barnsley councillors who voted for cuts and the Director of SYITA. It was agreed to start weekly Freedom Rides which saw people boarding trains and refusing to pay for travel then holding rallies where they would meet other “freedom riders” from Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield.

The numbers involved in the freedom ride were inspiring, with over one hundred people taking part each week and the protest seemed to be growing as time went on, winning support from the Trade Union Movement including ASLEF, RMT,BFAWU and Unite, who’s officers took part in the protests and spoke at rallies.

The first three weeks of the freedom ride went off without incident even though there was a large police and security guard presence at Barnsley train station in the first week. Protesters thought they were going to be stopped but were told by the police, “We are here to look after your safety,” and were almost escorted onto the train. On weeks two and three there were no police around and the numbers travelling swelled. On week four police blocked entry to the Sheffield bound platform. After a long period of argument the police and Northern Rail management said that everyone could get on the train, “But this is the last time, next week you have to pay.” Week five found Barnsley station swarming with police and everyone forcibly barred from getting on to the platform. Protestors sang songs based on US Civil Rights songs updated. The singing and chanting rocked the station but did not move the police.

The protestors began to cross the railway bridge to go over to the north bound platform where a train arrived carrying protestors from Sheffield. Everyone boarded that train while the police were still blockading the other platform. As the train set off everyone waved at the police who looked very confused! The TV and other media had been contacted to say that it was likely that there would be a confrontation at the station. They turned up and gave great coverage to the day’s events.

Week six found even more turning up to ride but a massive police operation. It was impossible to get to the ticket office without a ticket. The bus interchange bridge was blocked by police. The media had been warned by protestors that there was likely to be an escalation on both sides and they came along hoping for good footage. The large numbers of protestors provided that. A lively rally was held during which the national chair of ASLEF retired members section presented BRAG with a cheque for £50.

Like all other meetings the rally was extremely democratic. Everyone who wanted to was able to speak. Ideas and proposals were voted on. This rally decided to set off on a march around Barnsley. As the demonstration set off protestors from Sheffield arrived on a train and were able to pass through the police and join the march. The massive crowd went up to Barnsley Town Hall, where for some time there were chants against the cuts and calling for the councillors who made the cuts to come out – they didn’t!

The demonstration went into the town centre for a public rally and sing song and chanting then back to the interchange, through the bus station and over the interchange bridge until stopped by a wall of police. After more chanting everyone dispersed.

A huge letter writing campaign also was underway with people complaining to local councillors and MP’s who at first were reluctant to become involved but the large protests and accompanying media coverage helped force the hand of the local politicians, who I am sure were concerned about what effect this would have on the up-coming elections.
Members of the public and Unite’s Community Branch were becoming more involved, not just with the protests but also behind the scenes applying pressure on local councillors and asking difficult questions at Labour party meetings. That combined with the Sheffield Citizens Advice Bureau’s legal Challenge helped create a massive amount of pressure which has resulted in a partial victory, meaning free travel on local trains for disabled people and their carers is to be re-instated on June 8th, along with half price train travel in South Yorkshire for OAP’s.

On the Monday of the seventh week even more people turned up, pleased that a partial victory had been won but angry that the original concessions were not restored in full. Disabled campaigners who had been central in the protests turned up to say they were willing to support any future protest for elderly travellers to win back the original concessions.

The Freedom Riders are planning a victory parade through town on Saturday the 17th of May and will be holding a vote (show of hands), on whether or not to continue with the protest in light of this announcement. Whatever the protesters decide to do on the 17th, their action has been inspirational and shows that a combination of direct action, political pressure and legal challenge can win! How many times are we told that “nothing changes” “you can’t win”? We now can prove that is wrong, “if you fight you may lose, if you don’t fight you have lost already” (Bob Crow).

Media Links
Sheffield Star
We Are Barnsley
Barnsley Chronicle
Morning Star
Yorkshire Post
Aslef

Sheffield Star
Sheffield Star

Freedom Ride Protest Latest News

Partial Victory Announced Here
It is confirmed by a phone call from David Young this morning that the SYPTE have decided to propose:
Free travel for disabled and carers on trains and buses at any time.
1/2 price travel on trains from 9.30am to 11pm.
Video of the Freedom Ride Protest Wednesday the 7th of May
Star report here.

Barnsley Demonstration; Reinstate Free Train Travel Now!

On Saturday May 17th the Barnsley Retirees Action Group (BRAG) is organising a demonstration through Barnsley to demand the reinstatement of the right to free train travel for older and disabled people in South Yorkshire which we have lost as a result of Tory spending cuts.

The march will go past the office on Regent Street where the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive will meet  on Mon. 19th May (and which we will lobby from 1pm onwards), then past the rail station to a rally in the precinct.

We obviously hope to have a big turnout of older and disabled people from across South Yorkshire for this march. As important we hope to get large numbers of trade union and Labour delegations.

We welcome speakers from those unions and parties who have been supporting our campaign, as well as from disabled organisations, pensioners groups etc.

The march will assemble at 11am on Eastgate ( a few minutes from the Transport Interchange) near Barnsley College’s main building.

At the last meeting of Barnsley Trades Council we passed motions from GMB and UCU calling for support of  the campaign for free train travel. We will be supporting the demonstration. The campaign has also had national support from both ASLEF and BFAWU and regional support from RMT and the NPC.

in solidarity,

Dave Gibson (campaigner and Trades Council officer)

Freedom Ride 5

Five Weeks ago free travel passes were taken away from pensioners and disabled people in Barnsley, this means that thousands of the most vulnerable people in our communities are now finding it even harder to get out of their homes.

In response pensioners groups, disabled groups and trade unionists have staged five ‘Freedom Rides’, were people board the train and refuse to pay. This week a heavy police presence meant we could not board our usual train to Sheffield, so we cleverly crossed over the bridge and instead traveled to Penistone to stage our rally.

Fantastic support from ASLEF Unite Community and the Bakers Union shows our protest is gaining even more support!!! United We Bargain Divided We Beg!

freedom 2 freedom1 photo 3