The galleries at this weeks Sheffield City Council meeting were lined with protesters as Julie Dore, leader of the controlling Labour group, attempted to apologise for the dawn raid on Rustlings Road.
Prior to the meeting protesters had gathered outside the Town Hall for a peaceful public rally over the council’s policy of felling street trees that are judged dangerous or too expensive to maintain.
Speakers included former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, national trust ecologists and city council members from opposition parties.
In his speech Adam Hanrahan, Lib Dem councillor for Crookes called for the resignation of Coun Dore, and of Coun Bryan Lodge, the Labour cabinet member responsible for the tree maintenance programme. Others later repeated this demand inside the council chamber.
Rob McBride, the self-styled ‘Tree Hunter’ who often appears on BBC’s Countryfile, also spoke at the protest. He called the city “a Jurassic park where the councillors are behaving like dinosaurs”
Once in the building, protesters crowded the public gallery and council chamber, and at one stage the Lord Mayor threatened to have some of them removed for their outbursts.
The mayor, Labour’s Councillor Denise Fox, called for order after one protester cried out “trees are a public service” during a council debate.
The council discussed motions brought by Liberal Democrat and Green Party councillors, condemning the way the Rustlings Road fellings had been handled, but both were defeated.
Coun Dore defended Labour’s handling of the controversy, and at one stage said she would report the Liberal Democrat Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg to the Parliamentary Standards Board over comments he made about the way she dealt it.
She claimed that Mr Clegg had wrongly suggested that she had attempted to blame South Yorkshire Police for the way the tree felling had been organised.
“I never said that that decision on Rustlings Road was taken out of our hands,” she told the meeting.
“I have said it was a joint decision, it was a joint planning operation, and I have proof of that,” she said.
Coun Dore repeated the Labour group’s previous apology over the affair. “We apologise for our contribution to the operations on Rustlings Road,” she said.
After Councillor Dore was seated, questions were then put to Coun Lodge, during which the meeting erupted into cries of “Save our trees” which only quietened once protesters were again threatened with expulsion by the Lady Mayor.
In response to the day’s events, the protest organiser Graham Turnbull said: “I want them to stop cutting down our city’s trees. It’s just vandalism now. Pure and simple.”