Anti-LGBT equality teaching protesters have reacted with claims of “white” bias after a judge permanently banned noisy demonstrations from outside a primary school.
Protesters were banned from demonstrating outside Birmingham’s Anderton Park Primary School by a judge at the city’s High Court on Tuesday.
The ban, which includes an exclusion zone surrounding the school, had been opposed by protesters, along with an interim ban first granted at the same court in the summer.
A court granted Birmingham City Council an order which temporarily banned protesters over safety fears about repeated large-scale demonstrations, often involving people with no direct connection to the school.
The injunction was made against three individuals – the protest’s main organisers Shakeel Afsar and Amir Ahmed, and parent Rosina Afsar, as well as “persons unknown”.
Christian campaigner John Allman from Okehampton, Devon, had also opposed the legal bid, claiming it limited public protest.
Head teacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson said she was “happy” after the ruling, telling reporters: “We will carry on doing what we do.”
The Department for Education and the city council also welcomed the judge’s decision.
Headteacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson had previously described the demonstrations as “awful”, “toxic and nasty”, and has spoken of receiving threats as a result of the gatherings.
Immediately after the ruling, protester Shakeel Afsar branded the court “one-sided”, pointing out that the judge, the council’s barrister and key witnesses had been “white”, compared with the “diverse” protest supporters.
Speaking at a press conference, he vowed that protests – outside the exclusion zone – would be continuing but was “bitterly disappointed” with the case’s outcome.
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Mr Afsar repeatedly claimed the weekly demonstrations, held just yards from classrooms and featuring megaphones and a sound-boosting PA system, were “peaceful”.
The self-styled businessman, who has no children himself at the school, claimed protests were only triggered because the headteacher had not properly consulted parents about relationships teaching.
He had argued education material used was not age appropriate, and further claimed the school was “over-emphasising a gay ethos”.
Mrs Hewitt-Clarkson rejected the claims, saying the material was appropriate and great care had been taken in how children were taught about different relationships.
She also told the judge, giving evidence at the injunction’s trial, that parents had had “numerous informal and formal chances to speak to us as a school” about any concerns.
But describing a private meeting she had with Mr Afsar in her office, she said: “He slammed his hand on my desk. He used the word ‘demand’… It was volatile, it was aggressive.
“I had never had a meeting like that before in 26 years of teaching.
“He set up a WhatsApp group that afternoon … trying to whip up a frenzy.”
“We are not homophobic, we have been unfairly labelled as such by a small group of extremist LGBT campaigners. Why are Muslims not allowed to protest the way climate change protestors are?”— Darshna Soni (@darshnasoni) November 26, 2019
Muslim parents who wanted to protest give their reaction to the Anderton Park judgement. pic.twitter.com/Ja6Xk4aoTI
Mr Justice Warby QC, handing down the permanent injunction at the High Court in Birmingham, said the protests had “a very significant adverse impact on the pupils, teachers and local residents”.
Recounting claims made by speakers at the protests, including one that the school had a “paedophile agenda” and that staff were “teaching children how to masturbate”, the judge said: “None of this is true.”
He added: “None of the defendants have suggested it was true and the council has proved it is not true.”
Imposing the injunction, he said: “The court finds on the balance of probabilities the defendants bear responsibility for the most extreme manifestations (of the protest).”
The injunction does not include an earlier ban on use of social media to abuse teaching staff.
Speaking to the media soon after the ban was announced on Monday, several parents voiced anger at the decision.
“We are not homophobic, we have been unfairly labelled as such by a small group of extremist LGBT campaigners,” they said.
“Why are Muslims not allowed to protest the way climate change protestors are?”