Lord Mayor of Sheffield 'abused and 'bullied' by tree campaigners at protest exhibition launch

The Lord Mayor of Sheffield Coun Anne Murphy.
The Lord Mayor of Sheffield Coun Anne Murphy.
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The Lord Mayor of Sheffield has accused tree campaigners of bullying and intimidation after they held a protest at an event she attended.

Coun Anne Murphy said the protesters had abused her position and disrespected the women's suffrage movement after confronting her at the opening of an exhibition marking 200 years of protest at Weston Park Museum last Tuesday.

Simon Crump.

Simon Crump.

The event was just hours after she had unveiled a plaque outside a former suffrage shop on Chapel Walk earlier in the day.

Protesters also carried out an occupation of Sheffield Town Hall following last week's full council meeting and Coun Murphy said they had also disrespected her role as Lord Mayor by taking pictures of themselves in her chair in the council chamber.

Coun Murphy said: "As I arrived in the car at the museum, there was a bunch of tree protesters and the abuse that they shouted at me was horrendous. They were shouting 'hypocrite' in my face.

"The role is apolitical and we go to an enormous amount of events across the city and we go as the first citizen of Sheffield. They weren't abusing me, they were abusing the role of Lord Mayor who is representing the people of Sheffield."

Coun Murphy said she had 'no problem' with peaceful protest but said she felt 'intimidated' by the actions of the protesters last week and left the event earlier than planned.

"They came right up in my face with a camera and I felt like it was bullying tactics. I don't object to peaceful protest but this was bullying and it was a bit distressing," she added.

Coun Murphy said she also felt campaigners had disrespected her position when they posted pictures of themselves in her chair during an occupation of the town hall last week.

She added: "It hasn't upset me as Coun Anne Murphy, it's upset me as Lord Mayor of Sheffield because I represent the people of Sheffield.

"They have derogated the position. My husband was really upset but I just think it's all a bit childish."

Simon Crump, a tree protester who was pictured in the Lord Mayor's chair during the town hall occupation, said: "If you want to speak about being bullied maybe you should speak to the council about what their SIA staff are doing to elderly people on Meersbrook Park Road.

"It's not disrespectful to her, it's disrespectful to the council who have brought forward this tree felling contract and will not show us the contract."

He added: "I would apologise if there has been any offence caused but I think you have to choose to take offence and I would like to know what the offence was."

Chris Rust, treasurer of Sheffield Tree Action Groups, said around 50 members of STAG gathered outside the Weston Park Museum and held a "peaceful protest".

He said: "My experience was that there was a very good humoured campaign and quite a few people there wore costumes and held placards.

"There may have been people saying hypocrite. There was a hypocrisy in that the council have been so against our protest and obviously the Lord Mayor represents the council in that respect."

He added: "I am very sorry if anything that was said was offensive to her but she must understand that people get angry when they're maligned."