Sheffield Council: Shock over video showing councillor pulling down man’s face covering during picket line row

A Sheffield councillor involved in a picket line fracas says he pulled down a man’s face covering to hear him better.

Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 3:06 pm

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.

A meeting of the full council was taking place in the building but Labour and Green councillors refused to cross the picket.

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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

Labour councillors did cross the picket to enter the building for a discussion about the strike. Coun Terry Fox then came back out 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.”

Picket line bust-up

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

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

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.

Coun Damms today 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.”

The University of Sheffield branch of the University and College Union issued a statement criticising Labour councillors for initially crossing the picket.

Following the row, Robyn Orfitelli of the union said: “We are reaching out to the individual involved to make sure he is OK.”

Councillors should adhere to a code of conduct and the monitoring officer can deal with issues relating to their behaviour without a complaint being made.

A Sheffield Council spokesman said: “We are aware of this incident. Complaints or issues relating to conduct of elected members are dealt with by the monitoring officer.”