Pro-life students at Manchester incident talk of “rape threats and violence”

Following the protests and disturbances at Thursday night’s students’ Pro-Life meeting at Manchester University’s Oxford Road campus, the Alliance of Pro-Life Students (APS) have expressed their disappointment and concern at “the abject failure of the University of Manchester and the Manchester Students’ Union to protect and uphold freedom of speech.”

In a lengthy statement released after the incident the APS said students felt intimidated and physically threatened by the actions of protestors who had gathered outside the buildin where the pro-life meeting was being held. Here’s the text of the APS statement …

What Happened

Yesterday evening, a student pro-life group at the University of Manchester were due to hold a talk discussing the purpose of their new society and its aims for the rest of the year. A protest of the event was organised, claiming it would be peaceful and at a different location to the event. However, the event location was discovered and the pro-life students attending the event were met by hundreds of students booing them and shouting threats. For the safety of students already inside, the doors to the building were locked, which meant that other pro-life students attempting to attend were trapped between the blocked entrance and an angry mob behind them.

Despite the locked doors, five masked protestors managed to break into the building with a megaphone and speaker, circling the room and loudly chanting over the students, which temporarily prevented the event from continuing. The students, with help from the police, had to move rooms three times to complete their presentation.

During the ordeal, several pro-life students were spat on, one of the female committee members received a rape threat, and a heavily pregnant pro-life 22-year-old had to be escorted home in a police van due to concerns for her safety. Chants of “stay in there and die”, “you should be aborted” and “f*** you” were made during the protest. Eggs were thrown at the window, and students were told by police to leave swiftly while they held back protesters and the students were forced to walk through a tunnel of pro-choicers hurling abuse.

Despite the aggression, intimidation, threats, and verbal abuse, the pro-life attendees remained remarkably calm and did not retaliate. They peacefully and courageously continued with their event, even after the masked protestors entered the building and the students had to relocate to another room. We are very proud of the students, and we hope that this traumatic experience will not deter them from practising their right to express their beliefs on campus.

“This is the worst case of abuse against pro-life students that I have seen in over a decade of working with similar pro-life groups,” said Madeline Page, CEO of the Alliance of Pro-Life Students.

“The threat to pro-life students continues to grow and it seems that our higher education establishments are either incapable or unwilling to handle it appropriately. In advance of the event, the pro-life group asked to have security guards at the door. This was refused saying that protestors could not be prevented from entering, so instead security would simply patrol the premises. This was not remotely sufficient and a clear failure to safeguard students.

“Students should never have to experience anything like this at university. Universities are supposed to be grounds where ideas are debated and tested, where students can forge their own conclusions through civil conversation. What happened last night was totally unacceptable and we will not tolerate it.”

“I commend this courageous group of students for standing up for life, for the most vulnerable. They will be on the right side of history.”

Maisie, a pregnant 22-year-old and alum of the university said: “[W]e could be in real danger. I felt especially vulnerable, being 7 months pregnant I was terrified they would hurt me and my baby girl”.

“Leaving the building was the most terrifying part, we were surrounded and people were screaming in our faces. I knew that it would only take one person to push into me for me to fall and be crushed. It was traumatic, I was shaking the whole time and I’m still really shaken up. I really thought our lives were in danger. The crowd was extremely violent – spitting, throwing eggs, screaming and swearing. There were around 30 of us, and 300 of them. Most of them had their faces covered”.

Inge, a first-year student at Manchester University and the female committee member who received a rape threat said: “It’s unthinkable that at a university – where we are meant to discuss and debate important ideas about life and society – my peers and I have been threatened, spat on, barricaded and wished death upon simply for our peaceful beliefs. Some students even said they hoped I would be raped”.

“I joined the pro-life society because I believe that women deserve better than abortion, and that society can do far more to support both lives in every pregnancy. Our group believes in respecting the dignity, rights and wellbeing of both mum and baby, and would like to explore ideas about how our country can get there. The fanatical attacks from a mob of ideologically-charged students last night terrified us. The UK government introduced legislation recently to protect our right to free speech on campus. Speaking openly about an important issue shouldn’t cost us our safety”.

Rafa a student at the university, said: “We made rounds around the building once to see if there was any other place we could safely enter without hassle, without intimidation. We realised there was not and the only way to enter was through the front of the building, of which there are at least 100 to 150 people”.

“At the front of the building, towards the end and towards the middle of the event, there must have been at least very easily 300 people”.

“Whilst we were trying to enter, a bloke shoved me and I said, ‘excuse me, I’m trying to pass’. He goes ‘why?’ and I said I was going to try and enter the building. He says ‘why?’ and I said ‘to go to the event’, and he started pushing me and preventing me from going. I didn’t touch him. I had my hands up, he stopped and when I was leaving he elbowed me again.”

“Eventually, when we were let in by the police, the police came and pushed people out of the way so we could enter. Some of us came in and some of us didn’t. Some of us stayed outside because the police said ‘we can’t let any more people in. This is just too dangerous’”.

“When we were leaving, the police told everyone we had to do this very quickly, [a] very swift exit from the building”.

“I got spat in the face by a girl who was next to me as I was leaving. I really couldn’t see her face”

“The police were using force to stop these people because they were being very violent. They were being very threatening, both physically and verbally”.

Jacob, Treasurer of Manchester Pro-Life Society said: “Protesters gathered around the building and the main entrance. Some of our members managed to get inside relatively safely, with the help of security and police. [Then] things started getting more heated – the protesters started egging the windows.”

When the event finished, “police and security came to escort us out of the building, and as soon as we got outside … people [were] screaming threats and abuse at us as we simply walked past. I remember hearing ‘you should have been aborted’”

“If it wasn’t for the police and security, people would have definitely been physically hurt”.

“It made me feel intimidated and threatened. I was genuinely afraid that we would get hurt physically”.

So far there has been no response from the University of Manchester.


The Alliance of Pro-Life Students