George Tapp, 64 year old legendary Salford trade union campaigner on everything from the Bedroom Tax to pensioners' rights, is in the MRI Hospital tonight suffering with two broken legs and a horrendous gash on his head, after being mowed down by a car during a peaceful picket of BAM Construction outside its site at Manchester City's new complex at Eastlands yesterday.
George, an electrician by trade and a tireless campaigner against blacklisting in the construction industry, joined around fifty trade unionists from UNITE the union outside the BAM construction site to draw attention to the firm's activities – which included paying the disgraced blacklisting company, Consultancy Association, over £38,000 between 1996 and 2009 for membership, and namechecks of potential trade union activists. UNITE states that BAM Nuttall/Construction is a proven blacklister.
"We believe they are human rights abusers for stopping honest working men and women from getting employment because they were blacklisted" says Paul Kelly, who was on the protest with George Tapp last night.
"We were in between Ashton Road and the pavement trying to leaflet people coming out of the site and obviously it caused a bit of a back up on the main road because people were stopping to get leaflets" he recalls "We weren't blocking the road, just trying to talk to people in cars as they were going past, and the public was getting mixed up with the workers, it was bit chaotic.
"As far I remember I was talking to four men in a car and I looked around because I heard an engine revving" he adds "George was at the front of the car with a couple of other guys. Then I just heard the massive sound of an engine noise, looked round and saw the car disappear up the road for about 200 yards with George on the bonnet and the other lads.
"I was watching and the driver just hit the breakes. I saw all the lads on the front fall onto the floor, and he just drove off and left them there. George was in the middle and he just hit the floor.
"The speed of the car was so fast it burnt the tyres, and you could actually smell burning, and he breaked hard, that is how George sustained his injuries, he was flung straight onto to the floor.
"Most people were in shock really because the person who perpetrated this was just a complete maniac, there was no reason to do it; in my opinion it was attempted murder what that man tried to do to George. In my mind he went from 0 to 60 in seconds and that is an act of a madman."
While the two other protesters escaped with minor injuries, George Tapp had both his legs broken, together with a gash on his head that was still bleeding this evening. He will also require reconstructive surgery on one of his knees.
The Greater Manchester Police account of the incident, which was sent to the Salford Star this morning, told a very different story…
"At around 6pm on Wednesday 13 May 2013, police were called to reports of a group of protesters stood across Ashton New Road, opposite BAM Construction site, blocking traffic travelling in both directions" the release stated "On arrival, police discovered there had been a collision between a blue Ford Ka and 64-year-old man. He was taken to hospital and treated."
"From what we can see from CCTV, protesters were blocking Ashton New Road, preventing motorists from going any further. A number of people stood in front of the Ford Ka and climbed upon the bonnet before it moved forward. The car then travelled a short distance at a slow speed before it stopped and one of the men fell off. The car reversed and drove off" said Chief Superintendent Russ Jackson from North Manchester division.
"We are working to ascertain whether any criminal offence has occurred and I would ask the driver of the car or anyone who witnessed the incident to contact police" he added "Officers are now in the process of talking to representatives of Unite Union and BAM Construction to establish what happened last night. While we respect the democratic right of anyone holding a peaceful protest, if we believe individuals have behaved in an unlawful manner, we will take action."
The police version of events was met with disbelief by Paul Kelly…
"The speed that car travelled was in seconds, it wasn't slow" he says "It was so fast you could actually smell burning from the tyres, it definitely did not move slowly, it was a fast acceleration and he didn't stop, he breaked 200 yards down the road.
"George is 64, a Salford pensioner, and the idea of him climbing on the bonnet is ludicrous. It was a Ka, it doesn't even have a proper bonnet. I'm amazed the driver didn't kill him."
Today, messages of support and good wishes were flooding into the MRI where George is staying. There was even a supportive picket by blacklisting campaigners outside the hospital, led by Steve Acheson for whom George had helped organise a benefit recently (see Salford Star article – click here).
And tonight Paul Kelly visited the hospital along with Alice Searle, who works with George on the Irwell Valley Mining Project. They brought back a message from George…
"I remain in good spirits" he said "I'd like to thank everyone from the trade unions for their support and solidarity, and hopefully I'll be back with everyone soon to carry on the struggle for justice, peace and trade unionism."
Alice reported that George was quite comfortable and cheerful, and that his spirits had been raised by all the messages of support…
"George stands up for justice, he's not the sort of person who goes out of his way to make trouble, and he's not the sort of person who would go climbing over cars" she said "He's in his mid sixties and not what I'd call a physical person. He's the sort of person who uses his skills to explain to people and get over his point of view. People can see a man who is concerned about people's quality of life – and now his quality of life has been badly damaged."
The police are still `investigating' the incident. The Salford Star asked to see the CCTV footage as the GMP version seemed to contradict eye witness statements. The GMP said "We are not issuing the CCTV at this time".
Anyone with information should phone the police on 0161 856 3981/3832 or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
Please leave any messages of support in the Salford Star comments box and we'll make sure that George sees all of them…
Main photo by Alice Searle shows George Tapp with Paul Kelly