Stephen Knight @GSpellchecker wrote a thread on Twitter outlining the events of Sunday 15th May 2022 when Kellie-Jay took the Standing for Women speakers’ corner event to Manchester. The purpose of these speakers’ corner events is to give women the opportunity to have their say, to speak about why we need women’s rights, and why the erosion of them is such a problem.
Predictably, some of those who would prefer that women keep quiet, suck it up, and keep away, organised a counter protest.
Because women’s rights are, in 2022, once again controversial.
That masked men (and some women) linked arms to prevent women meeting by the iconic Emmeline Pankhurst statue isn’t the win they think it is. Their attempt to drown out the women speaking with extremely loud music was unlikely to win over waverers either.
Stephen Knight’s film gives a flavour of the events. The refusal of the antifa lookalikes – who were apparently protesting “fascism” – to engage was in sharp contrast to the willingness of the women to explain why they were there. The sloganeering, mantras and personal attacks of the trans activists made the well-evidenced, articulate and thoughtful speeches of the women all the more compelling.
The Police didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory, though. Oh they did a good enough job most of the afternoon. They kept the groups apart and the women were able to speak.
But what were they thinking here?
Only two months ago, Belstaffie had a milkshake thrown over her. And it’s no excuse to say “it was only milk” – acid throwing attacks look exactly the same right up until the point of impact.
Other women were attacked on that same march, and nothing was done to prevent it or to punish those responsible, so maybe it’s not such a mystery that thugs like these feel entitled to behave in the way they do.
We saw the same tactics used at Sussex University to make Professor Kathleen Stock’s working environment untenable. The black bloc clothing is a pseudo-military uniform, designed to intimidate.
When members of the general public who are lawfully engaged in public debate, or going to work, or asking to have their legal rights to single sex spaces protected, they have a right to expect that the police will do more than just ensure that they are not physically injured. We all have a right to expect that the police will remove those who are behaving in an intimidating and aggressive manner. Yet they did not.
And let’s not forget that Manchester was the city that hosted the Ariana Grande concert that was bombed by a man who dressed in black and obscured his face. Despite this, the Greater Manchester Police did not think it appropriate to demand that these openly menacing individuals should reveal their identities. They had the power to have the masks removed, and yet they chose not to.
The police are tasked with ensuring the safety of society as a whole. It is a dereliction of that duty for them to allow men and women in pseudo-military attire, with their faces covered, to behave in an openly hostile way to groups of women wishing to speak.
Of course, the police have a difficult job to do, but our model of policing by consent requires policing without fear or favour, and we’re just not seeing that. We’re seeing the police treating some individuals with kid gloves whilst others – would it be cynical to call them easier targets? – are obliged to walk on eggshells.
And what did the police get for their trouble?
A rousing chorus of “all cops are bastards”.
Even death threats are ignored from one side, while the other is harassed, misrepresented and reported.
Will the Greater Manchester Police do anything with this clear evidence of a hate crime?
I think we know the answer.
Senior police officers at the College of Policing are letting down their colleagues on the front line when they direct them to treat the class of people who identify as trans rights activists as above the law.