Tag: freedom ride

Latest news from the Freedom Riders

Another well attended and successful meeting on Thursday.

We firmed up arrangements for going to York on Monday 2nd March to lobby Northern Rail. We already have almost 50 people going on the bus and hope to fill it.

Details are slightly changed for Barnsley pick up:
Sheffield 10am prompt Paternoster Row (road beside Showroom cinema).
Barnsley 10.30am Eldon Street (opposite Parkway cinema)  **** note: little earlier and different spot.
Doncaster 11am front of railway station.

We should get to York about 12 noon.

We hope to arrange a march into York centre after the lobby possibly meeting up with a disabled people’s demonstration.

We are going to leave time for getting lunch – not sure what time to return but we want to miss teatime rush hour.

If you haven’t put your name down yet then email or phone me to book a seat.

We have decided to have a leafleting session Monday week, 16th Feb, at Barnsley bus station at 11am to advertise the York demo and advertise our campaign and then to catch a bus just after 12 to Barugh Green to lobby Tates Travel offices to get them to consider bringing in the flat £1 fare for any journeys outside of 9.30am to 11pm as a couple of companies are now offering.

If you cannot stand for an hour leafleting then come along just before 12 to join the lobby of Tates.

The next planning meeting in Barnsley library will be at 11am Thursday 19th February.

Justice for freedom riders

As the charges against two pensioners are dropped, South Yorkshire’s freedom riders are more determined than ever to win back their travel passes.

Unite Live – Rae Passfield, Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Protestors, George Arthur, 64, and Tony Nuttall, 65, were arrested in June for obstructing police and fare evasion at Sheffield station during a rally against the axing of travel concessions for the elderly and disabled.

They were due to be trialled at Sheffield magistrates’ court on December 8 but the crown prosecution decided not to continue with the case due to a lack of evidence.

“My initial reaction was a great deal of relief,” Arthur said. “Tony and I faced a possible prison sentence, hefty fines and prosecution costs of tens of thousands of pounds, so it was a massive relief when the charges were dropped.”

Despite his relief, Arthur admitted to feeling a little cheated by the decision.

“The things that they had put in their statement were ridiculous and completely untrue,” he continued. “So in that respect I do feel a sense of anger that the case has been dropped – I would have really liked to have seen their lies shown up in court.”

The freedom riders had organized a protest on the day of the trial, but once the charges were dropped, they decided to turn it into a victory rally instead.

More than 150 people attended the rally, and after making a lot of noise outside the court, they marched on to Sheffield train station and interchange.

So far the freedom riders have won full reinstatement of the disabled travel pass and a partial reinstatement of the pensioner pass.

But the fight is far from over.

“It just shows how determined people are to keep the campaign going,” Arthur said. “It’s really impressive. We’re talking nine months now since the campaign started and people are still fired up and prepared to carry on protesting.”

“The protesters are going to continue until we get full travel reinstated,” said Unite community coordinator for South Yorkshire Joe Rollin.

“They’re not giving up and we expect to continue protesting in January,” he added.

“We have justice on our side,” Arthur said. “And we know that we need to fight in order to make sure things don’t get any worse.”

“We have begun to see ourselves as part of a much wider movement against railway privatisation and will be taking part in the nationwide protest against the fare increases on January 5th,” he added.

The privatisation of Britain’s public transport was recently criticized by the shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher.

He described the rushed franchising process as a “betrayal of taxpayers and the travelling public” and said “David Cameron has put privatisation ahead of the public interest.”

But Stagecoach boss Martin Griffiths – who earned £2.2m last year – said pensioner travel concessions was bad for business, and compared it to Tesco giving OAPs free food.

“I won’t provide a service and not get properly paid for it,” Griffiths said. “For the management effort my team put in, we get underpaid.”

Arthur rejected Griffiths’ comments, arguing they were reflective of the ideology of privatisation.

“[Griffiths’] comments really show how the privatised companies are operating,” Arthur said. “Hoarding money at the top at the expense of providing decent services.”

“We’re optimistic that we will win the fight, yes,” he continued. “Though a better word might be ‘determined’.”

From the Freedom Riders

Hi All,

Monday’s lobby outside Sheffield Court gave us the sweet smell of victory.

Well over 100 turned up including many trade unionists with their trade union banners. The atmosphere was one of excitement and jubilation.

After the lobby we marched through the centre of Sheffield and down to the train station. Then we decided to go and introduce ourselves to the British Transport Police at their office on platform 1 and to demand an apology for their behaviour. Unfortunately none of them came out to meet us. Perhaps they were feeling shy.

Following a rally on the platform, which got applause from passengers throughout the station, a number of us boarded a train and had a freedomride to Meadowhall.

Please try to come to our meeting this Friday 12th at 11am Barnsley library where we will plan out events for the new year. There will also be some of our new t-shirts celebrating two victories in our campaign on sale – might be the perfect Christmas present!

On the following Monday 15th we have the lobby of the Transport Committee on Regent Street Barnsley at 1pm followed by our Christmas party in the YMCA with food and music.

And at the party you will be able to hear the first public performance of this song:

Thanks for all the support given to Tony and myself in the lead up to the (abandoned) court case.

All the best,
George

Here are a few photos from the protest at Sheffield Interchange.

Travel pass campaign update

Join lobby at Sheffield Magistrates Court 9am December 8 to defend Tony and George. Coach from Barnsley at 8.15am.

The date of the court case is now rapidly approaching. Support for the rally outside the Magistrates Court is building and we need to re-double our efforts to make it as big as possible.

We had a great day leafleting for the rally in Doncaster last Monday. More than 20 of us turned up and we got a good reception from the people of Doncaster.

The next leafleting sessions are now:

Monday, 24th November, 11.30am, meet at the Transport Interchange In Rotherham. If you are going from Barnsley, there is a 22 bus leaving stand 19 at 10.20 that arrives in Rotherham at 11.22.

Monday, 1st December, 11.30am, meet at the Bus Station in Sheffield.

Friday, 5th December, 11.30am, meet at Barnsley Bus Station (a previous email said that this was going to be on Thursday 4th. This was a mistake – it is definitely Friday 5th.)

A reminder that there is free transport from Barnsley down to the rally on Monday, 8th December, leaving Barnsley at 8.15am. We now have over 50 booked. If you want to go down on the free transport from Barnsley, please reply by email or ring Tony Nuttall on 0775 883 6854.

We also now have a free coach going from Doncaster and stopping on the way at Rotherham. This is a great opportunity to get as many people as possible there from Doncaster and Rotherham. Further details will be circulated as soon as possible.

Our next open Freedom Rider meeting will be next Friday, 28th November, at 11.00am in Barnsley Library. I hope we can get a really big turn-out so that we can plan for the court rally and to continue our campaign.

To finish, here is the text of a letter that Ged Dempsey, a print worker, has sent to the newspapers. It shows how our campaign is getting wide support, including from industrial workers. Let’s continue to build! Unity is strength!

“Sir

The South Yorkshire Freedom Rider campaigners deserve the praise and recognition for standing up and fighting for the rights of vulnerable people and public transport with their peaceful protests.

Not only should there be affordable and accessible public transport but its right it should be free and concessionary for the elderly and disabled.

Northern Rail have used the police and private security to defend their action. How much has this cost?

The Condem austerity frenzy and funding restrictions are the root cause of this odious cutback although it was backward and not a progressive or enlightened step in the south yorkshire councils who made or defended the decision to to axe the funding.

It was politicians, bankers, casino economics and corporate greed that caused the deficit not the public. Yet again its us that pay the price whilst they return to business as usual!

The police have blocaded station platforms and kettled, yes kettled elderly people including the blind and disabled.

It is perverse that two of the voluntary group, retired Ton Nuttall and George Arthur,  find themselves in Crown court next month when it was them who were attacked by the brutality of transport police – attacking a peaceful protest and vulnerable people.

The freedom riders have been supported nationwide. The train company’s and police Action has again shamed our area across the world – in denying people the right to peacefully protest and defend their rights.

Their are plenty of footage on the interenet and on you tube for readers to view.

I urge people to protest to their MPs and  council in supporting the south yorkshire freedom riders and the above campaigners who are in the dock.

That we have free travel for the elderly and disabled who have paid into the big pot for a lifetime.

In solidarity
Ged Dempsey
Print worker”

More on this story here.

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!

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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”.

protests

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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