1. The Independent reports that violent scuffles broke out at Sheffield railway station.
2. According to the paper:
Protesters – including a blind woman who was taken to hospital after being injured when she fell over a wheelchair – said they suffered cuts and bruises as a result of being ‘manhandled’ in clashes with British Transport Police and members of Northern Rail’s rail response team.
Another man collapsed and was taken to hospital while a 70-year-old protester was nearly knocked on to the tracks during the melee.
3. The Guardian reports that the editor of the Sheffield Star has demanded an explanation as to why his reporter was warned off filming the protest.
According to the paper the reporter, Alex Evans, claims he was ordered to erase footage recorded on his phone because he did not have permission to film on private property. The paper says: “When he initially resisted the request and continued to film, he says he was told he could be arrested under terror laws.”
4. The protest was the latest in a series of so-called “Freedom Rides”, which take their name from the UK civil rights movement.
Disabled and elderly campaigners are protesting against changes to the discretionary free rail travel system in South Yorkshire. The old rail concessionary scheme was axed to reduce a £243,000 shortfall in South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority’s budget.
5. An update on the group’s Facebook page says:
Today must go down as on of the most disgraceful scenes ever at a British railway station […]
We heard that police were blocking the exit of the platform at Meadowhall so we stayed on the train to Sheffield with those already at Meadowhall joining us for that journey […]
At one point Tony was grabbed by 5 policemen and held in a doubled up position for a long period of time with people shouting at the police to stop abusing him. There is dramatic video of this which you can find by searching on Facebook for ‘Fight travel cuts in South Yorkshire’ or on YouTube search ‘Freedom Ride South Yorkshire’. We were eventually dragged off and held in Sheffield police station for the afternoon.
Another Tony collapsed in the middle of this and had to be taken to the Northern General, Rebecca, one of our blind supporters from Barnsley, was pushed over a wheelchair and has gone to A&E. Sharron and Ian, both from Sheffield and who use two walking sticks, were knocked to the ground. Mark was almost knocked out of his wheelchair and is very upset. These are all people who have disabled travel passes yet they were shoved around by the police.
It appears that Northern Rail and the police had decided to ‘teach us a lesson’. But I think that this will come to haunt them. Quite rightly there is widespread disgust at their behaviour today.
7. Northern Rail said it was investigating the incident. 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.
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.