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WATCH: Pro-life students left 'terrified' after being targeted by protestors at Manchester University

by Donna Birrell

A group of pro-life students at Manchester University say they were left "terrified" after being subjected to verbal abuse and threats by a crowd of up to 250 pro-choice demonstrators as they tried to hold a pro-life talk.

During the ordeal, a number of the students were said to have been spat on, one of the female committee members is said to have received a rape threat, while a heavily pregnant pro-life woman had to be escorted home in a police van due to concerns for her safety.

As students left after the event through a "tunnel of pro-choicers" held back by police, some protestors pursued them while shouting and swearing at them.

Jacob, Treasurer of Manchester Pro-Life Society, said: "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".

Maisie, a pregnant 22-year-old alumna 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".

Madeline Page, director of the Alliance of Prolife Students told Premier: “What was so shocking is that this protest was planned in advance and was known to the university and the Students Union (SU). The pro-life students requested security and asked multiple times, but it was dismissed. This meant that by the time the students arrived for their event, they were met by hundreds of protesters outside the door. There were hundreds of people booing and shouting at them which was just so scary. I think it's really awful that the SU didn't provide the security they should have done.

“I think their [pro-lifers'] reaction on the night was brilliant. They showed so much courage, and had to be escorted out by police and they all walked out heads held high. They didn't react with anger or anything. I'm really proud of them for that because I think that really shows you what pro-lifers are like, that we are calm, cool collected individuals who know that we're on the side of truth.

“Obviously afterwards, as they've had time to reflect they are of course concerned. Several of them are concerned about even just being on university campus because they're recognised as people have shared their photos all over social media.

“I was speaking to one student who said he can't even go to the library without people approaching him and asking him about his views and harassing him. They are obviously quite concerned for their safety and concerned about how they can continue to have events and continue to share the pro-life message in a way that is that is peaceful, that is listened to and that they’re not just shut down with lots of abuse and violence.”

Another pro-life event at a university has been cancelled at the request of the university because they can’t guarantee the safety of the students.

Page added: “This is crazy, because where does free speech live? Sure, we need to absolutely uphold their safety and their well-being. But there are ways in which the university can do that and still facilitate these events happening.”

She also said students are “self-censoring” and not sharing their opinion because of fears of being targeted.

Inge, a first-year student at Manchester University 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".

The group protesting the pro-life event, Stop Manchester Prolife, has released a list of demands including that pro-life medical students "not be placed in abortion clinics, maternity wards and sexual health clinics due to conflict of interest".

Premier has contacted Manchester University for comment.

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