– By George Arthur Yesterday must go down as one of the most disgraceful scenes ever at a British railway station. The Freedom Riders had started the day in good cheer and with smiles on our faces. Our campaign has achieved much and we look like we are …

– By George Arthur

Yesterday must go down as one of the most disgraceful scenes ever at a British railway station.

The Freedom Riders had started the day in good cheer and with smiles on our faces. Our campaign has achieved much and we look like we are forcing the authorities to give more.

About 50 or 60 turned up at Barnsley station. Some had just come down to cheer the rest of us on.

We bought tickets to go to Wombwell with the intention of Freedom Riding to Meadowhall. A very large number of police piled on the train as well and I expected them to try to throw us off at Wombwell. As we pulled out of Wombwell the ticket collector came along and when we said we were Freedom Riders he just passed on and the police stayed sat down.

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 Sheffield the train doors were left locked until the police had all got off and formed a mass cordon blocking the exit from the platform. We found out afterwards that the police were not just local but included some from Doncaster and Liverpool.

We had a rally on the platform, sang songs and chanted. The police became more upset. Some moved among the crowd trying to intimidate people to give their names and addresses. Eventually two grabbed hold of me and said I was arrested. I was dragged down the platform with other protesters trying to get me free.

At one point our comrade Tony was grabbed by five policemen and held in a doubled up position for a long period of time with people shouting at the police to stop abusing him. You can see this in the video above. We were eventually dragged off and held in Sheffield police station for the afternoon.

Another man, also 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 in 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.

Tony and I have been charged and will appear at Sheffield Magistrate’s Court on 7 July at 9.45am. We hope that there will be a large protest outside to support us.

Next Monday is the Transport Committee meeting in Barnsley on Regent Street and we will have a lobby outside that at 1pm.

We have a planning meeting fixed up for Thursday 3rd July at 11am in Barnsley Library. We are looking at booking up for an extra meeting this Thursday – more information on that tomorrow.

Finally, two points: first to thank everyone who phoned up about today and offered support and has passed on information and video links to others;

Second, I ought to point out that the police I refer to are Transport Police. Interestingly enough, the police at Snigg Hill station were very sympathetic to our case for returning to free train travel.


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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