Socialist Worker

Cheers outside court in Sheffield for arrested Freedom Ride pensioners

by Dave Gibson
Issue No. 2411

The rally outside Sheffield Magistrates Court

The rally outside Sheffield Magistrates Court (Pic: Fran Postlethwaite)


Well over 250 people gathered outside Sheffield Magistrates Court on Monday of this week.

They were there to support the two arrested Barnsley Freedom Riders, Tony Nuttall and George Arthur, on their first appearance in court.

The Unite union had funded a coach of protesters from Barnsley and dozens more travelled by train. The BFAWU bakers’ union had also funded a banner for the campaign.

The crowd cheered George and Tony when they said, “Police violence has not stopped our campaign. Today’s protest is the biggest yet. We are not going away. This is a campaign we will win.”

Hundreds of people have taken part in Freedom Rides against the axing of free travel for elderly and disabled people.

Angela Firth, one of the Barnsley freedom riders, told Socialist Worker, “The way Tony and George were treated is disgusting. The police used totally unnecessary force.”

That view was echoed by Wayne Gilmore, Unite branch secretary at Superdrug Warehouse, South Elmsall, West Yorkshire. He said, “I’m here to support George and Tony because I was disgusted at the bullyboy tactics of the police against two pensioners.”

23 year old Ben Moran-Healy told Socialist Worker, “I’m here because the pensioners are running an inspiring campaign. Old people deserve free train travel.”

Andrea Armitage, a lecturer and UCU member at Barnsley College added, “I really admire George and Tony for sticking to their principles. We are all going to get older and they are fighting for my future.”

Horrified

Rebecca  Bryson, a Unison shop steward from Sheffield United Teaching Hospitals Trust, told the crowd, “We invited Tony Nuttall to speak to our Unison meeting last week and showed the shocking video of his arrest. All our members were horrified.

“We know that the move to regionalised health services means many pensioners are being forced to spend money they can ill afford on train fares to attend hospital appointments. We therefore pledge our full support to your campaign.”

Steve Mercer, the Unison branch secretary, then presented a cheque for £200 for the campaign!

Colin Walker, a Unite rep and IT worker, told the crowd, “I took the campaign’s open letter to Unite Conference last week. It got a fantastic response. Delegates were outraged by the way elderly and disabled campaigners were treated by the transport police. Many had already seen the video.

“We submitted the Open Letter as an emergency motion and it was passed unanimously by conference. 170 individual delegates put their names to it as well.”

When George and Tony came out of court, with the news that their next court appearance was set for 8 December, protesters marched with them through the centre of Sheffield.

A group of protesters then took a Freedom Ride back to Barnsley.


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