OPEN LETTER on FREEDOM RIDES
We are shocked at the violence that was unleashed on Monday 23rd June by British Transport Police on a peaceful protest to win back free train travel for South Yorkshire’s older people.
The police clearly knew they were using excessive force which is why one of their number intimidated the young journalist from ‘The Star’ into deleting his video film of the arrests by threatening him with arrest under the Terrorism Act. They wanted to destroy any film evidence of their behaviour.
We believe the police were acting to a plan which was why they seized campaign secretary, George Arthur, first. When challenged they lashed out violently which could easily have had fatal consequences, as happened to Ian Tomlinson. The police behaviour threatens the right to protest.
We welcome the wonderful support the campaign has already had from the train drivers’ union, ASLEF. We appeal to the whole trade union movement to get behind this campaign, and to put pressure on the Labour Party to give support too. The best support Labour could give is to make funding free train travel for disabled and older people a manifesto pledge for next year’s General Election.
In the meantime we call on the South Yorkshire Labour councils, in conjunction with Northern Rail, to reinstate immediately older people’s rights to free train travel for the remainder of this financial year, to enable proper consultation to take place in a calm atmosphere.
The campaign is organising a demonstration to protest at the arrest and charging of two of our members. They will be outside Sheffield Magistrates’ Court on monday 7th july from 9am the morning that the two arrested campaigners appear in court. We call on everyone who is opposed to the impacts that the government’s austerity policies are having on the working class to join that protest.
The campaign to win back free train travel will not be intimidated by police violence and has pledged to continue to organise mass peaceful direct action including future Freedom Rides, until their just demands are met. They deserve our full support. Please send replies to Fran Postlethwaite: firstname.lastname@example.org