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Daily reveals further unproven police claims about tree protesters

Chris BurnFurther revelations about a police force’s communications plan for a controversial tree-felling programme have been made public by a regional daily.

The Yorkshire Post has revealed South Yorkshire Police claimed “professional” protesters were trying to stop the work in Sheffield by attempting to seriously injure council contractors in an official communications strategy – despite having no evidence for the allegation.

Last month HTFP reported how the Leeds-based Post had broken a story about South Yorkshire Police and Sheffield City Council meeting in secret to plan a “media strategy” for the controversial tree-felling programme, in contrast to previous denials that this was the case.

In February, the newspaper debunked allegations made about protesters fighting the tree-felling, including claims that demonstrators cut workers’ safety ropes and studded nails and glass into trees in attempts to cause serious injury

A previously redacted part of the communications plan has now been published and states the protesters were “believed to be professional, adding they were “aggressive in nature and have been directing this towards the workers”.

When asked for an explanation by the Post over its use of the term “professional protester”, a force spokeswoman said: “The term is not a South Yorkshire Police term, it was received as intelligence and reported as such. On this basis, we cannot provide a definition.”

Post assistant features editor Chris Burn told HTFP: “The latest story came from an FoI from a tree campaigner to the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner in South Yorkshire and sheds some more light on very serious but apparently completely unsubstantiated allegations against anti-tree felling protesters in Sheffield.

“The biggest surprise to me in relation to this story was that South Yorkshire Police included the claim that ‘professional’ protesters were involved in trying to hurt workers in an official communications strategy seemingly without any caveats but now say they are unable to define what the term means.

“While thankfully the situation on the streets appears to have been resolved through a more conciliatory approach by the council and its contractor Amey where they are now prioritising kerb repairs over removing trees, I believe there is still plenty left to uncover about the approach of the different authorities in the city to this issue and the treatment of protesters when the controversy was at its height.”