Pensioners and disabled people ‘appalled’ at police violence on freedom ride protest

Dave Gibson

Northern Rail Transport Police turned to violence to try and break protests by pensioners and disabled people in South Yorkshire this week.

The “freedom riders” have been boarding trains and refusing to pay since March after councils removed free travel from disabled and older people.

Police arrested and charged two protesters, George Arthur and Tony Nuttall, during a protest on Monday of this week. They have been charged with failure to pay and obstructing police.

George described the scenes as “disgraceful”. “I was dragged down the platform with other protesters trying to get me free,” he said. “Tony was grabbed by five police officers and held in a doubled up position for a long time.”

Video footage of the police treatment has caused widespread outrage. They clearly expected this, threatening one local journalist with arrest under the Terrorism Act unless he deleted his footage.

One disabled man, Ian Wallace, was hospitalised after being shoved.

Yet disabled people have the right to travel for free, after the protests forced councils to reinstate it. They are now fighting for free travel for older people.


Ian told Socialist Worker, “The police would not let us off the platform. Then they started shoving and one pushed me over.

“I fell and injured my knee. I am appalled at the way I have been treated.”

More than 70 people had gathered at Barnsley station for the protest. They bought tickets for one stop down the line, then planned to freedom ride to Meadowhall.

Transport police travelled with them and had blocked off Meadowhall station. Protesters travelled on to Sheffield where police drew up a barrier of at least 27 officers, effectively kettling protesters on a small section of platform.

Roy Millington, a 78 year old protester, told Socialist Worker, “The way George was treated was just like the way police behaved arresting miners at Orgreave during the miners’ strike.

“I was protesting at the violence they were using on him and one copper gave me a right shove. I nearly fell onto the railway track but was saved by a worker.”

Protesters demonstrated outside the transport police office in the station then held a rally, where some Aslef union members joined them. They have vowed to fight on.

Campaigners plan to protest on Monday of next week at the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive meeting at 1pm, Regent St, Barnsley. They also plan a protest on Monday 7 July at 9.45am outside Sheffield Magistrate’s Court when the two arrested campaigners are due in court.

Reprinted with permission