Friday 6 April 2018

Sheffield Tree Defenders' Stump Up Appeal has just reached its target

Guest post by Alan Story

The Stump Up Sheffield (SUS) crowdfunder, “Defend the Tree Defenders: Stump Up Sheffield” ended a few minutes ago. 

You did it. We all did it. 

We’ve been successful in meeting our target of raising £27,000 to pay the legal costs of two tree defenders that were levied against them by Sheffield City Council (SCC). 

Although the Crowdfunder states that we have raised £20,470, other funds are being pooled together and there is now sufficient money available for Calvin Payne and Alastair Wright to pay these legal costs. So it is a time for celebration.

“But of course it sticks in our craw that all of this funding will be going into the coffers of SCC and that these bills were so steep because Sheffield City Council chose some of the most expensive lawyers in the country to enforce a civil injunction,” said Alan Story, a spokesperson for SUS. 

In Calvin’s case, SCC brought in a £15,000-a-day Queen’s Counsel from London as its hired gun for a November 2017 hearing against Calvin and Green Party councillor Alison Teal. (In Alison’s case, the Labour-controlled council used dodgy evidence against a fellow councillor; this evidence and her case were thrown out of court.) But Calvin, who was defended by barrister Paul Powlesand working on a pro bono basis, was convicted of breaching the Council’s injunction and given a suspended prison sentence. 

Alan Story said:
SCC made a political decision to try and crush Calvin and Alastair financially as part of a wider strategy of trying to crush the entire Sheffield trees movement but we were not cowed. Tree campaigners in Sheffield and our many allies across the country --- and the world --- said with one voice: ‘an injury to one tree campaigner is an injury to all tree campaigners’ and have stumped up marvellously.

We think it showed true Yorkshire grit and financial sacrifice and sends the message that this chainsaw massacre of OUR street trees should be ended immediately. And that mediation with tree campaigners needs to be at the top of Julie Dore’s agenda.
Since the crowdfunding campaign began 28 days ago, a total of 796 supporters have contributed £20,470, plus more than £800 in donations via PayPal. If you scroll through the 343 comments listed on the SUScrowdfunding page , you will see both the passions (and intellect) this issue has aroused, as well as the geographic breadth of the support. Money was donated by people from places such as British Columbia, Missouri, Brussels and Australia as well as across the UK in locations such as the Shetland Islands, London, Dorset and beyond. 

A significant pot of additional money has come in to SUS from the recent benefit concert of well-known Sheffield musicians; it was quickly sold out and was attended by 800 people. As Pitsmoor-born Richard Hawley said in a SUS video shot at the concert, the Council needs to admit that it has “ f***ed up” over trees. A lifetime Labour voter, Hawley says he has backed away from supporting Labour only twice: once over the Iraq War and now over the local street trees crisis. 

The official accounting of all the funds raised by this campaign will be released next week.
But the fund-raising efforts of the SUS team have not ceased. On Sunday 22 April at the Crookes Social Club, we are hosting the “Let’s Hear it for the Trees!” benefit concert. 

More details Here’s a YouTube video of one of the talented musicians, Nancy Kerr, who will be performing that night. LINK  

Money raised from the benefit gig will go towards future legal costs associated with Sheffield tree defenders.And it may well be needed. In what is obvious harassment, South Yorkshire Police keep arresting tree campaigners on baseless charges. In the most recent shameful case, charges were dropped this week against a 73-year-old retired firefighter LINK. 

We think the campaign was successful because, first and foremost, we were working on a clear case of injustice that touched a lot of people. But, as well: 

          We had excellent high-profile endorsers including Caroline Lucas, George Monbiot, Maxine Peake, and Ken Loach. (Many more endorsers joined later.)
          We had a team of 17 people of many talents who worked together on a co-operative and democratic basis. (The copy for the crowdfunder went through five drafts!)
          We produced two videos (still available for viewing) and reached out widely across various social media. For example, we posted our crowdfunding message on +50 Facebook groups, which also spread the Sheffield trees saga to tens of thousands of people. Twitter tweeted merrily. 

At a February 7th  Sheffield City Council meeting, SCC tree felling czar Bryan Lodge claimed: “I travel around to different places… and it (the Sheffield chainsaw massacre) is not a topic of conversation in Southampton.” Take another trip Bryan. 

The SUS team was pulled together by NO STUMP CITY. Sheffield Tree Action Groups (STAG) was also a listed sponsor.

On behalf of Stump Up Sheffield

Alan Story


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