Two arrested in Sheffield tree protest as police in riot helmets remove campaigner from under vehicle

Two men have been arrested as controversial tree-felling work supported by dozens of police officers and private security guards continued in Sheffield today - with one taken out from under a vehicle by police wearing riot helmets.

Police arrest a tree campaigner in Sheffield today. Pic: Scott Merrylees
Police arrest a tree campaigner in Sheffield today. Pic: Scott Merrylees

Felling crews supported by around 30 police officers and private security guards employed by Sheffield Council contractor Amey arrived at Kenwood Road in Nether Edge at lunchtime today with the intention of felling one of the more than 160 trees in the local area that are due for removal and replacement with saplings as part of a highways improvement contract.

But the start of work was delayed for almost three hours after two men entered 'safety zone' barriers surrounding the tree.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

One lay on the street while the other got underneath a mobile cherry picker that was partly raised from the ground.

Police carry the arrested man towards a police van. Picture: Scott Merrylees.

Crime commissioner Alan Billings visited the scene to observe what was happening after calling for a 'political solution' to be found earlier this week following concerns being raised about the numbers of police officers being deployed to support the work on Monday on Abbeydale Park Rise in Dore.

He left at around 1.30pm and ten minutes later a group of police officers entered the safety zone, with the man lying on the ground carried out, arrested and put in a police van.

Around an hour later, police officers wearing riot helmets to protect them from the risk of the cherry-picker vehicle falling on their heads removed the man who had been crouching under the vehicle while a watching crowd of around 100 people shouted 'Shame', 'Disgrace' and 'Orgreave' as the man attempted to stay in position by gripping on to the bottom of the vehicle.

Both men were arrested under section 303 of the Highways Act 1980, an offence which carries a maximum fine of £200.

Felling gets under way on Kenwood Road

Once the arrests were made, work began on felling on the tree, which is healthy but has been deemed to be damaging.

Sheffield Council contractor Amey was removing the tree as part of a delayed highways maintenance contract that had been due to see the removal of around 6,000 trees by the end of last year, with saplings planted as replacements.

With some felling work still outstanding, the council and Amey say only dead, dying, diseased or dangerous trees are being removed but campaigners argue much of the felling involves healthy trees that do not need to be cut down.

It is the second week since South Yorkshire Police announced there would be a higher level of police presence at felling sites following a pause in tree-felling work after "disorder and violence" on Meersbrook Park Road involving campaigners and Amey's security staff which resulted in a number of injuries.

Police carry the arrested man towards a police van. Picture: Scott Merrylees.

Angry local residents said they were shocked at the level of police resources being used for the operation.

Maxine Parkin said: "Real criminals are out committing crime and when you ring the police they don't come. It makes me feel angry to see this."

David Pierce said: "People around here respect the police. But this is doing great damage to the respect the residents have for the police."

A spokeswoman for South Yorkshire Police said: "South Yorkshire Police’s Protest Removal Team were today, Thursday 8 March 2018, called to Kenwood Road, Sheffield to remove a protester from beneath a truck, located within a secured safety zone at the site of tree work.

Felling gets under way on Kenwood Road

"The truck had been lifted off the ground using hydraulic jacks and to ensure the safety of the protester, engineers placed axel jacks underneath the vehicle to create a safe working environment.

"Due to the level of risk, officers were equipped with protective headgear while working under the truck to remove the protester.

"Two men have been arrested on suspicion of obstructing a person acting in the execution of the Highways Act 1980. They remain in police custody for questioning."