Police vow to protect public as Sheffield city centre set for protest march

A rally is taking place in Sheffield City Centre
A rally is taking place in Sheffield City Centre
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POLICE vowed to take action to protect the public and city centre businesses if today’s public sector pensions rally gets out of hand.

South Yorkshire Police have drawn up a plan to monitor and manage the big demonstration against public sector cuts taking place in Sheffield city centre today.

They are expecting around 1,000 demonstrators to take part in the event which begins with a march from the Peace Gardens at midday through the city centre.

Protesters also plan a rally outside the Town Hall at 1pm organised by Sheffield Trades Council.

City centre traffic is to be disrupted during the Sheffield trade unionists’ rally and demonstration, with roads closed for around an hour, between 12.30pm and 1pm.

Barker’s Pool, Pinstone Street, the Peace Gardens, Norfolk Street, Union Street, Furnival Gate, The Moor, Fitzwilliam Gate, Charter Row, Rockingham Street and Division Street will all be affected.

Buses and other traffic will be diverted.

A police spokeswoman said: “South Yorkshire Police has plans in place to monitor and manage demonstrations taking place today relating to industrial action by sections of the public sector.

“Police respect people’s right to protest peacefully but officers will be available across the county to minimise the impact of demonstrations on local communities and businesses.

“Protest liaison officers - easily identifiable in their light blue tunics - will be in Sheffield to provide advice and assistance to demonstrators planning to march through the city centre around 12.30pm.”

Chief Inspector Simon Verrall said: “We do not expect the demonstrations to be on the same scale as previous high-profile protests.

“The force has been liaising with rally organisers to facilitate peaceful demonstrations but we’re ready to deal with any issues while continuing to deliver our usual service to the public of South Yorkshire.”

Schools will be closed and disruption is expected at Job Centre Plus branches and the UK Border Agency’s offices at Riverside, in the city centre.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “DWP is prepared for any strike action. We have successfully managed several recent periods of industrial action with minimal disruption.

“98 per cent of DWP claimants receive automated payments including pensioners and job seekers and they will continue to receive the payments on which they depend.

“Wherever possible Jobcentres will remain open to the public.

“Our contingency plans include prioritising our resources so we can continue to make payments to our customers as normal. We will also maintain telephone services and where possible, face to face services.”

Striking teachers and civil servants, who are walking out in protest at pensions changes, are being supported by members of Sheffield’s Green Party.

Bernard Little, Co-Chair of Sheffield Green Party, said: “We support the rights of groups of workers to strike if they feel that their pay, pensions, health and safety are under threat. The strikes and the demonstrations will draw attention to the wider attack on public services and the people who depend on them.

“We support protest against unfairness and policies which undermine the NHS, education and social services. We deplore the public sector cuts implemented by the Conservative led government and their impact on vulnerable groups.

“Cuts in social services, benefits, primary schools and children’s centre budgets really hurt lower income groups, pensioners, women and children. Plus carers and those in low-paid temporary work.”

PLACES TO BE HIT BY RALLY:

Barker’s Pool, Pinstone Street, the Peace Gardens, Norfolk Street, Union Street, Furnival Gate, The Moor, Fitzwilliam Gate, Charter Row, Rockingham Street and Division Street will all be affected.