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Violence against pickets in London fire dispute

Yesterday, at an incident in Croydon,  a Fire Brigades manager was arrested for running over a picket. Today, London Daily News has details of two more violent incidents, including a serious case in Southwark, where firefighter. Ian Leahair, was run over, seemingly deliberately:

A fire engine was deliberately driven into the FBU London representative Ian Leahair, at Southwark fire station.  This happened more than two hours after the strike ended. There was a huge police presence at Southwark, and FBU members who were there accepted with cheerful good humour being penned in across the road, away from the incoming fire engines…

The permitted eight pickets, in the midst of dozens of police officers, stood in front and asked the drivers to stop while they spoke to them. The first two fire engines stopped, and waited for the two minutes or so the police allowed the eight pickets to try to talk to them, without winding down their windows. But the third didn’t stop.  It just kept coming.  As the pickets fled before it, the great, heavy fire engine actually picked up speed, and hit Ian Leahair and then one of the police officers, before the police finally persuaded the driver to stop.  By then, Ian Leahair’s legs and half his body were underneath the fire engine and he was clearly in pain.  If he had been standing an inch or so further left, his legs would have been crushed under the fire engine’s wheels…

After that, the police handled the arrival of the rest of the fire engines very differently.  They decided, with great fairness,  that they were not going to stop the picketing because a driver had endangered the pickets.  So police officers themselves stopped the fire engines, gave the pickets their couple of minutes, then cleared the way for the engines.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said today:

This has been a day of shocking violence directed at London’s firefighters.

“An incredible pattern seems to be emerging. It looks as though the private company hired to do our work has instructed its drivers to drive fast through picket lines. We ended the day in the extraordinary situation where the police had to protect striking firefighters from recklessly speeding vehicles, which were driven by those paid to break the strike.

“If our people had done a fraction of what they did, there would be inflammatory and self-righteous condemnation from the London Fire Brigade, and no doubt it would find something else from the personnel files to feed to its friends in right wing newspapers. But they have not even condemned what happened. Can it possibly be that they do not care about the danger in which their contractor has placed their LFB’s own employees? Could they, incredibly, even be a party to decisions which have led to this?

They have brought hired thugs into London who have driven around at speed with their faces hidden by balaclavas in an attempt to menace and intimidate our members. Tragically three of our members have been injured as a result. I wonder whether the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and the others who have spent the past week condemning the FBU for our industrial action will now condemn this violence against us.”

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