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Press release – Manchester students left “terrified” as out-of-control mob barricades, spits on, threatens, and wishes rape on them for their pro-life views

Students left “terrified” as mob barricade, spit on, threaten, and wish rape on them for their pro-life views


Manchester students left “terrified” as out-of-control mob barricades, spits on, threatens, and wishes rape on them for their pro-life views

  • Video footage captures angry mob threatening handful of students who believe “women deserve better than abortion” 
  • Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act 2023 designed to protect free expression on campus – advocates call for Manchester University to uphold higher standards

MANCHESTER (1 March 2024) – A student pro-life group at the University of Manchester were left “terrified” as they faced a barrage of spit, verbal abuse and threats – including rape threats – from a pro-choice crowd of up to 250 people as they tried to hold a pro-life talk.

During the ordeal, a number of pro-life students were spat on, one of the female committee members received a rape threat, while a heavily pregnant pro-life 22-year-old woman had to be escorted home in a police van due to concerns for her safety. She said: “I really thought our lives were in danger”.

Yesterday evening, the student pro-life group, Manchester Pro-Life Society, had planned a talk only to be met by a large and verbally abusive pro-choice mob.

  • Students who tried to gain access to the event were subject to a torrent of verbal abuse and threats.
  • A pregnant 22-year-old left in terror and had to be escorted home by the police out of fear for her safety.
  • Eggs were thrown at the window.
  • As students left after the event through a “tunnel of pro-choicers” held back by police, some members of the mob pursued them while shouting and swearing at them.
  • Some pro-life students were followed and had to be escorted by the police.
  • Joachim, a student from the University who attended the pro-life event, said “[A student] was spat at, someone else was egged and one of the committee got a rape threat”.

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”.

Rafa a student at the university, said:

“We made rounds around the building once to see if there was any other place we could safely enter without hassle, without intimidation. We realised there was not and the only way to enter was through the front of the building, of which there are at least 100 to 150 people”.

“At the front of the building, towards the end and towards the middle of the event, there must have been at least very easily 300 people”.

“Eventually, when we were let in by the police, the police came and pushed people out of the way so we could enter. Some of us came in and some of us didn’t. Some of us stayed outside because the police said ‘we can’t let any more people in. This is just too dangerous'”.

“When we were leaving, the police told everyone we had to do this very quickly, very swift exit from the building”.

“I got spat in the face by a girl who was next to me as I was leaving. I really couldn’t see her face”.

“The police were using force to stop these people because they were being very violent. They were being very threatening, both physically and verbally”.

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”.

“I joined the pro-life society because I believe that women deserve better than abortion, and that society can do far more to support both lives in every pregnancy. Our group believes in respecting the dignity, rights and wellbeing of both mum and baby, and would like to explore ideas about how our country can get there. The fanatical attacks from a mob of ideologically-charged students last night terrified us. The UK government introduced legislation recently to protect our right to free speech on campus. Speaking openly about an important issue shouldn’t cost us our safety”.

A pattern of censorship

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

Since 2017, student representative bodies at Aberdeen University, Glasgow University, Nottingham University and Strathclyde University have all tried to prevent student pro-life groups from being affiliated with their university and benefiting from the same privileges available to any other student group. In each of these cases, the students’ unions had to reverse their decision after the groups threatened legal proceedings against them. Students at Birmingham University also had significant difficulty becoming affiliated with the university but eventually won out against significant opposition.

In 2019, in the first case of its kind, a midwifery student at Nottingham University was suspended and faced possible expulsion from her course after a lecturer raised concerns about her role in the University’s pro-life group. Only after beginning legal action was the University’s decision overturned. Towards the end of 2020, this incident was closed after the university extended an apology to the student and offered compensation for her unjust suspension.

Almost a quarter of pro-life students have been “threatened, abused, alarmed or distressed” for being pro-life at university, according to a 2021 poll.

According to polling by the national student pro-life group, the Alliance of Pro-Life Students (APS), over 71.9% of pro-life students report that they have faced situations in lectures or seminars where they felt they could not speak about their views.

23.8% of those surveyed said they had been “threatened, abused, alarmed or distressed – by actions or words – by another student or academic” because of their membership of a pro-life society. A further 35% of the participants reported that they had seen events cancelled due to the “de-platforming” of pro-life speakers. 65% of pro-life students had “witnessed another student being discriminated against or harassed for holding pro-life views”.

A 2020 survey undertaken by Survation for legal advocacy group, ADF International, has found that 27% of university students have ‘hidden’ their opinions that they believe may be at odds with those of their university.

The same survey found that 44% of students believe that their lecturers would treat them differently if they made their views known, and that 38% believe that their future careers might be adversely affected if they openly expressed their true opinions.

The survey, which received responses from 1,028 current university students and recent graduates across the country, showed that 40% of students have witnessed an increase in the cancellation of events due to the views held by the speaker at their university.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson, said:

“The treatment these students received is appalling. These students should be allowed to discuss serious moral issues like abortion free from such vile verbal threats and physical intimidation”.

“Student pro-life groups are often the first opportunity people have to hear the pro-life view and this should not be denied by the threat of violence”.