Saturday, 14 June 2008

Fathers 4 Justice campaigners storm Bristol Courts

Dozens of employees were evacuated from a Bristol family court today when Fathers 4 Justice campaigners stormed the building and a fire alarm was set off.Court and construction staff huddled outside Bristol County Court, in the high-rise Greyfriars building in the city centre, and waited for the fire service to arrive.

The protest, which began as a street demonstration, was joined by two Westcountry campaigners who had scaled the roof of deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman's home in Herne Hill, south London, earlier this week.

Jolly Stanesby, from Ivybridge, South Devon, and Mark Harris, from Plympton, were among about 30 banner-waving protesters dressed as various superheroes during the action calling for fathers' rights at Bristol County Court yesterday.

A dozen protesters dressed as Spiderman, Batman, Superman and The Incredibles forced their way into the court and chanted "What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now!"

A fire alarm was activated, although court staff could not confirm who was responsible, and nearly 100 staff flooded into the street outside.

Mr Stanesby said: "We always have a little get-together before Father's Day to put our message across."

After the courts were stormed, two police vans arrived, along with two fire engines, and the protesters left the building to continue their march. Fathers 4 Justice is a civil rights group which campaigns for parental equality and a father's right to see his children.

Mr Stanesby added: "Just because my ex decided to move on... shouldn't mean I don't get to see my child."

He said he and Mr Harris, who have been bailed by police since their rooftop protest, had written to Ms Harman to request a meeting with her.

"She's minister for justice and minister for women - how can those two things go together?"

Mr Harris said opening family courts to the public was one of the focal points of the Fathers 4 Justice campaign. He said: "Open up the courts so people can see the ridiculous decisions made against fathers. I was once sent to prison for waving at my daughters."

The demonstrators later unveiled a new poster campaign featuring superheroes.

Bristol County Court later released a statement, saying proceedings were disrupted for around 30 minutes and business then resumed as normal.

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