More than one hundred people staged a protest today as two men appeared before Sheffield Magistrates Court charged in connection with trying to stop trees being felled.
Simon Crump, a 56-year-old university lecturer, and fellow protester Calvin Payne, aged 44, appeared in front of Judge Paul Healey this morning, accused of trying to prevent tree-fellers doing their job.
Their appearance prompted scores of people to gather outside the court building on Castle Street, to voice their opposition to Sheffield City Council’s policy of felling trees that are judged to be dangerous or too expensive to maintain.
Several people have been arrested after allegedly trying to prevent workmen from the “Streets Ahead” programme from cutting down trees.
Mr Crump and Mr Payne were arrested on November 2nd while trying to prevent a 100-year-old tree from being felled on Marden Road, Nether Edge.
They were charged under Section 241 of the Trade Union and Labour (Consolidation) Act 1992, for preventing the tree-fellers from performing their job.
Both men denied the charge. They were granted unconditional bail to appear for trial on March 9th next year.
Speaking outside the court afterwards, Mr Payne said the two men looked forward to the opportunity to put their case.
“I hope that on the ninth of March we will confirm what we already know: that this is a legal, lawful, peaceful and popular protest against what is happening in Sheffield,” he said.
The two defendants are part of STAG, the Sheffield Tree Action Group, and more than three thousand pounds has been raised by crowdfunding to cover their legal costs.
Protesters outside the court included the prospective Sheffield Central MP and former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett.
“The not guilty pleas are clearly right. At some stage of the legal process they will be thrown out” she said.
“People of Sheffield have expressed their will and said this is not right.”
More people are due to appear before the court at a later date, following arrests when the council’s contractor, Amey, felled trees on Rustlings Road in Endcliffe in the early hours of the morning last month.