A 74-year-old pensioner has been arrested on suspicion of ‘witness intimidation’ as highly-controversial tree-felling work supported by dozens of police officers and security guards continues in Sheffield.
The man was arrested and had his camera and phone seized by police as tree-felling work was conducted at Abbeydale Park Rise in Dore on Friday.
A video posted of the arrest online showed four police officers leading the man to a police van while other protesters shouted “Complete and utter nonsense” and “Shame on you” at the officers.
Craig Andrews, a campaigner who witnessed the incident, said it appeared to have been a targeted arrest with the man doing nothing that he had seen to justify arrest.
He said following the end of work for the day, campaigners were talking together in groups along the road when a police van came around the corner came up to one group and then officers jumped out and arrested the man. It is understood the arrest relates to an incident on a previous day.
Mr Andrews said he believes the arrest is part of a wider police tactic to put people off attending tree-felling protests in the city.
“One policeman could have walked up to him and made the arrest. They are trying to make people think twice about getting involved in protests. They are tarring everyone with a criminal brush and criminalising the public.”
Another man was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage, with a third man reported to court on summons for obstructing felling work.
It follows two arrests on Thursday on Kenwood Road of protesters who entered a safety zone where felling was due to commence. A 55-year-old man laid on the street and the other, aged 33, hid under a cherry picker for two hours.
The second man was dragged out from under the vehicle by police wearing riot gear, which the force said was used to protect the heads of officers from the risk of the partially-raised cherry picker falling on them as they removed the man. Both men have been released from police custody while investigations continue. They were both arrested under section 303 of the Highways Act 1980, an offence which carries a maximum fine of £200.
On Monday, a male campaigner was arrested for assault and a female protester injured to the point of requiring hospital treatment following a chaotic fracas on Abbeydale Park Rise, where Amey are in the process of removing 19 of the street’s 65 cherry trees.
For the past two weeks, there has been a greatly increased police presence at tree-felling operations in the city after work was paused in January following clashes between protesters and security staff working for Sheffield Council contractor Amey.
The ongoing removal of 6,000 of the city’s 36,000 street trees, and their replacement with saplings, is part of a £2.2bn PFI highways improvement contract between Sheffield Council and Amey that has been running since 2012.
The council and Amey insist that only dead, dying, diseased and damaging trees are being removed. But campaigners say that many of the trees being removed are healthy and do not need to go – claiming the option is being taken for cost rather than environmental or health and safety reasons.
A spokeswoman for South Yorkshire Police said that in addition to the two arrests and court summons, an agreement was made with protesters to allow them to conduct a ‘slow walk’ in front of vehicles leaving the road at the end of the day’s activity.