Council orders removal of anti-abortion poster targeting Stella Creasy

Activists forced to take down poster in MP’s Walthamstow seat showing aborted foetus

Council officers in the north-east London constituency of the Labour MP Stella Creasy have removed a poster showing an aborted foetus, put up by an anti-abortion group running a campaign against her.

The activists, who had placed the poster in Walthamstow town square on Thursday morning, were served with a community protection notice by officers, who said members of the public had been offended by it.

The advertising agency Clear Channel had apologised for running the campaign against Creasy by an anti-abortion group, which also included a billboard in Walthamstow featuring a foetus and the words “Stop Stella”.

In July, MPs approved an amendment by Creasy to extend abortion rights to Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK where it remains illegal.

The MP, who is the target of a campaign by the UK branch of the American anti-abortion organisation the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, described the council officers as “total heroes” on Twitter.

A billboard covered in white paint
A billboard in Walthamstow, which was part of the campaign against Stella Creasy, was covered with white paint. Photograph: Stella Creasy/PA

Footage posted on Facebook by the activists showed the moment when one of the council officers read out a community protection notice obliging them to remove the poster. He was heard saying the council would use bylaws, applying to the town square, which prohibited the banner from being there.

On Monday, someone covered part of the billboard, which was also part of the campaign against Creasy, with white paint.

Clare Coghill, the leader of Waltham Forest council, said the authority had received numerous complaints from members of the public about the campaign and “had responded proportionately, having due regard to the right to protest and safety and wellbeing of all our residents and visitors”.

She added: “We fundamentally believe in free speech and the right to protest. Both are vital in a healthy democracy.

“However, residents and visitors to our town centre also have the fundamental right to use the town centre without being confronted with distressing images.”

A spokesperson for Scotland Yard said: “Police initially attended the protest on Saturday 28 September and listened to concerns about the content of parts of the protest, but at that point considered no criminal offences were committed or disclosed.

“The MPS subsequently received a complaint about the protest and the billboard resulting in a review of the initial MPS position and as a result we are currently scoping to establish whether any criminal offences have occurred.”


Ben Quinn

The GuardianTramp

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