'We'll carry on the fight' - Trial date set for Sheffield campaigners arrested for 'peaceful protest' at tree felling

Around 150 demonstrators protested outside Sheffield Magistrates' Court to support two campaigners facing criminal chrages for trying to save a tree from the axe.

Thursday, 1st December 2016, 12:40 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 3:27 pm
Simon Crump and Calvin Payne outside Sheffield Magistrates' Court. Picture Tom Maddick/SWNS

Simon Crump, aged 56, of Heeley and Calvin Payne, 44, of Nether Edge, appeared in court charged under the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act.

Both men were arrested and later charged for unlawfully obstructing council contractor Amey in felling a tree on Marden Road, Nether Edge on November 2.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The council, contractor Amey and South Yorkshire Police have all come under fire for a later operation on Rustlings Road where trees were cut down at 5am with no warning.

Two 70-year-old women were arrested in the protest which followed.

Speakers outside the court included former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, prominent tree campaigners and opposition councillors.

Ms Bennett told the crowd: “There are people in Sheffield who are determined to save our trees and they are going to continue to peacefully stand with their arms folded in front of their trees.

Former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett alongside tree protesters outside court. Picture Marisa Cashill/The Star

“If people get charged, like when we saw arrests on Rustlings Road, for standing up to the intimidating contractor Amey, it really brings the whole law into utter disrepute.”

The men appeared in court – packed with supporters – and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Defence solicitor Helen White told the court the men were engaging in a ‘peaceful protest’ before being arrested.

The pair were granted unconditional bail by District Judge Paul Healey and will appear back at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court for trial on March 9.

Natalie Bennett addresses the crowd outside Sheffield Magistrates' Court. Picture Marisa Cashill/The Star

Both men received loud cheers on their way in and out of court amid chants of ‘save our trees’.

Many protesters brought banners including one reading ‘Sheffield City Council shame on you’.

Dave Dilner, from Sheffield Tree Action Group, told the crowd after the case: “The threat of arrest and prosecution will continue for the act of protesting peacefully against tree felling until at least March 9.”

Speaking after the court appearance, Mr Payne said: “We’re perfectly happy, we want to test the legislation. We want to say these arrests shouldn’t have happened, the ones on Rustlings Road shouldn’t have happened.

Natalie Bennett, former leader of the Green Party outside Sheffield Magistrates' Court today December, 1 2016 along side tree campaigners. Author and university lecturer Simon Crump and self-proclaimed tree campaigner Calvin Payne were charged under Section 241 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, which criminalises anyone who persistently stops someone from carrying out lawful work. Picture Tom Maddick/SWNS

“We want to make it official that the protests going on for the last 18 months are lawful, peaceful, legal and people can engage in them and defend their communities.”

Mr Payne added that the court case had made him more determined to protest.

“All this has made me more keen and I’ll make it absolutely clear I would go out tomorrow morning and do the same thing,” he said.

Co-accused Mr Crump paid tribute to the people who came out and supported them.

He said: “This whole thing has made the authorities involved look like complete fools. All this shows people will not just lie down and let this happen in our communities.

“The support has been amazing, it’s really overwhelming.”

Protesters outside court. Picture: Tom Maddick/SWNS
Tree protesters outside court. Picture Tom Maddick/SWNS
Tree protesters outside court. Picture Tom Maddick/SWNS
Former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett alongside tree protesters outside court. Picture Marisa Cashill/The Star
Natalie Bennett addresses the crowd outside Sheffield Magistrates' Court. Picture Marisa Cashill/The Star
Natalie Bennett, former leader of the Green Party outside Sheffield Magistrates' Court today December, 1 2016 along side tree campaigners. Author and university lecturer Simon Crump and self-proclaimed tree campaigner Calvin Payne were charged under Section 241 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, which criminalises anyone who persistently stops someone from carrying out lawful work. Picture Tom Maddick/SWNS
Protesters outside court. Picture: Tom Maddick/SWNS
Tree protesters outside court. Picture Tom Maddick/SWNS
Tree protesters outside court. Picture Tom Maddick/SWNS