More than 100 people joined a freedom ride protest in Barnsley today, Monday. Disabled people, pensioners and their supporters gathered to lobby a meeting of the South Yorkshire Transport Executive.
The freedom riders have been campaigning since March for South Yorkshire councils to reinstate free travel for disabled and older people.
They are determined to show that they haven’t been cowed after transport police arrested two protesters on Monday of last week.
Rebecca Green, a blind protester, was knocked to the ground as police made the arrests. “I was really shocked,” she told Socialist Worker.
“I had to go to A&E and was shook up. But it’s making me more determined to keep protesting.”
“Everyone was singing and it was very jolly,” explained Michelle, another protester. “We weren’t endangering anyone. The trouble came from the rail response teams.”
George Arthur and Tony Nuttall, the two arrested, are due in court on Monday of next week facing charges of fare evasion and obstructing police. Today they were defiant.
“We are both going to plead not guilty,” George told the crowd to cheers. “We’re not just here fighting for ourselves. We’re fighting for future generations.”
One freedom rider, Susan, explained how she heard police discussing plans to handcuff and arrest protesters before last week’s freedom ride began. “It was premeditated,” she said. “But we’ve got a right to protest. They’ve upped the ante with how they’ve treated us.”
The transport executive allowed George to put some questions to its meeting—but didn’t answer any of them. There was furious heckling whenever a member of the transport executive entered the building.
Shouts of “scab”, “coward” and “scum” rang out from the crowd, largely made up of pensioners.
One protester was Gwen White—who was involved with Women Against Pit Closures during the 1984-85 miners’ strike. “To me, this is going back to how it was during the strike,” she told Socialist Worker.
“The police are using bully tactics. But we won’t be scared away.”
Download the open letter protesting at the attack on demonstrators and in defence of the arrested freedom riders