Anti-LGBT teaching protesters get permanent school gates ban

By Richard Vernalls, PA

Anti-LGBT equality teaching protests have been permanently banned from outside a primary school which witnessed weeks of noisy demonstrations, a judge has ruled.

The ban, handed down at the High Court in Birmingham on Tuesday, includes an exclusion zone surrounding the city’s Anderton Park Primary School.

The legal bid had been opposed by protesters, along with an interim ban first granted at the same court in the summer.

Birmingham City Council was granted an order temporarily banning protesters from outside the school’s gates in June, 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.

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.

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”.

Defendant Shakeel Afsar leaves Birmingham Civil Justice Centre (Jacob King/PA)

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.”

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.