University of Sheffield and Hallam strike: Formal complaint made against councillor who pulled man’s face covering on picket line

A formal complaint has been lodged against the Sheffield councillor who pulled down a man’s face covering during a picket line row.

By Lucy Ashton, Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 7th December 2021, 10:22 am
Updated Tuesday, 7th December 2021, 10:22 am

Video footage shows Coun Tony Damms and Council Leader Terry Fox involved in the altercation outside the Octagon, where striking University staff had a picket line.

Coun Damms denied he had assaulted the man and said: “I didn’t pull his face mask off, I pulled it down because I couldn’t hear properly what he was saying.”

A complaint has now been made to Sheffield Council by Martha Foulds, who quit as a Labour Party member on Thursday morning ahead of the complaint.

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There was an angry confrontation between Sheffield Council Leader Terry Fox, in a red scarf, and a man on the picket line outside the Octagon. Credit: Sheffield Solidarity Group

Ms Foulds said: “This video shows Labour chief whip Coun Tony Damms remove an individual’s face covering. I have submitted a complaint to Sheffield Council for a clear breach of the councillor’s code of conduct.”

Sheffield Council said it was aware of the incident and complaints relating to conduct of elected members were dealt with by the monitoring officer.

How did the picket line fracas start?

The row broke out ahead of a full council meeting which was taking place in the building. Labour and Green councillors refused to cross the picket for the council meeting but some Labour councillors did cross it initially for a discussion about the strike.

Coun Tony Damms says he pulled the man's mask down, not off, so he could hear what he was saying.

Coun Terry Fox came back out of the building and said Labour was in solidarity with the strikers.

In a video by Sheffield Solidarity Group, he says: “We’ve had a meeting of the Labour Group and have collectively said we are not crossing the picket line, we will not be taking part in the council meeting.

“We will lobby anybody going in, in the hope of deferring the meeting. It was a unanimous decision by Labour Group.”

But he was challenged by a man who said: “You’re a scab because you’ve already crossed our picket line.”

Coun Damms.

Coun Fox – a former miner – said: “Never use that word with me. Never ever tell me about scabbing. That is the most disgusting thing to say.”

A furious row then broke out and Coun Damms pulled at the man’s face covering. The council’s standards board will now consider the complaint.