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Carnival platform for fathers' rights group

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: November 16, 2012

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ARDENT fathers fighting for the right to see their children have been told they can bring their political message to St Austell's annual carnival.

But St Austell Torchlight Carnival committee and the police have told New Fathers 4 Justice to keep their appearance friendly.

The group is famous for scaling buildings clad in Lycra superhero outfits in its campaign for equal rights for fathers.

Now it is coming to St Austell. The group, under the name the Purple Knights, will take part in tomorrow's procession.

Although the carnival committee was unaware the Purple Knights were members of New Fathers 4 Justice – until contacted by the Cornish Guardian – they were still welcome to join the procession, said organisers.

This is despite the Purple Knights – among the first to enrol in the Vintage Vehicle section – previously being banned from three events.

Sheila Vanloo, from the carnival committee, said: "We are happy for everybody to come and join in with our celebration of our community.

"However, I would like to remind everybody that it is a family event and we're expecting hundreds of children to join in."

She added: "It has been suggested I ask them not to come but I feel that if they want to come and be part of it, why shouldn't they? As Fathers 4 Justice – the clue is in the name – they are fathers themselves and so I can't see why they would want to disrupt a family event."

St Austell police inspector Stuart Gibbons said that although everybody had the right to freedom to protest and freedom of speech, the police would not accept bad behaviour that breached the peace.

He said: "We will not tolerate people who disrupt what is a family event where there will be young children and families involved, to make a political statement.

"If they do start to hijack the event, we will take action."

Pete Moore, a spokesman for New Fathers 4 Justice, said direct action was not planned – unless the group was banned or encountered too much "hassle" from the police.

Honiton and District Carnival committee banned the men last month, citing that it was a family event and must not be used as a platform to promote political causes.

Mr Moore said that the group was glad St Austell carnival had shown common sense and not followed suit.

"Our entry is a car with a few adaptions to make it look like a Batmobile from the film and volunteers dressed up in fancy dress, including Batman and Robin, who were planning to walk alongside with collection tins," he said.

"In the past we have been banned for being political and seen people dressed as suffragettes in the same carnival. If you start to ban entries, where could it stop? While not everybody will agree with our tactics, we hope many along the carnival route will cheer on Batman and Robin and will agree with our cause."

All funds raised through their appearance and any prize money will be donated to charity.

The original Fathers 4 Justice organisation, which gained notoriety with campaigner Matt O'Connor, was disbanded in 2008, amid claims the group was plotting to kidnap Tony Blair's son. The new collective is fighting for equal child contact for parents after family breakdown and for the family courts to be more open.

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