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18 October 2017

Sheffield Labour council threatens peaceful protesters with prison

Calvin Payne, Sheffield trees campaigner

Two months have passed since Sheffield's Labour council won a High Court injunction against peaceful protesters fighting the felling of thousands of street trees in the city. The injunction prevents people from entering or remaining within work areas on the street but also attempts to restrict online posting on the subject.

Since then a growing number of campaigners have been protesting around the terms of the injunction, including breaking the court order. Many protesters have disguised themselves and continued peacefully preventing the felling programme from being carried out.

This period has also seen an escalation of oppressive measures against the campaign. Sheffield council has spent thousands of pounds on 'evidence gatherers' who attend protests filming and recording but also following people home from protests, filming people arriving and leaving and monitoring Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Recently one of these evidence gatherers made an unfounded accusation of assault which saw a pensioner held in police custody until video footage showed that no such incident occurred. A campaign of direct action has been going on for over two years and, despite 14 arrests and charges, no-one has been convicted of anything as a result.

On 27 October myself and others will attend Sheffield Combined Court to hear the latest allegations of injunction breaking against us and have a trial date fixed. Contempt of court carries a prison sentence and our Labour council is requesting this course of action from the court.

All of this stems from a secret 25-year 2.2 billion PFI contract between Sheffield council and Amey which has only been seen by a small number of senior officials. We fight on to prevent the ecological destruction but also to end the imposing of such secretive contracts for multinational firms to run public services in Sheffield and across the country.

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