Pro-life students at Manchester University left 'terrified' by angry mob

Students attending the first meeting of the Manchester Pro-Life Society needed to be escorted out of the building by police.(Photo: X/Tke.Media)

Pro-life students at the University of Manchester were left "terrified" after police had to hold back an angry mob who turned up to protest their meeting. 

Students who attended the event on 29 February say they were egged and spat on, and met with a barrage of verbal assaults, including rape and death threats, that left them fearing for their safety.

The meeting was the inaugural event of the newly formed student Manchester Pro-Life Society and was being held to welcome new members.

The group's treasurer, named only as Jacob for security reasons, 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."

One person at the event said he was only able to get in with the help of the police. Video footage posted to social media shows students being escorted out of the building by police and officers holding back the crowd. Other clips  show students being followed down the street by angry protesters shouting "shame on you" and "F*** pro-life*.

A University of Manchester spokesperson said in a statement: "While we respect the right of students to peaceful protest, there were instances of serious disruption and intimidation at this event. This affected staff and students going about their normal business, and police and campus security involvement was required.

"As well as the right to peaceful protest, we also have a legal obligation to support free speech within the law. The Students' Union, which approves student groups, has published an extensive statement with regard to the status of the Society."

Right to Life UK, which is supporting the pro-life group, said that one participant at the meeting had to be taken home in a police van out of fear for her safety.

Maisie, a 22-year-old alumna of the university who is seven months pregnant, said she was "terrified" that she and her unborn baby would be hurt. 

"Leaving the building was the most terrifying part, we were surrounded and people were screaming in our faces," she said.

"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."

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson, called the protest "appalling". 

"These students should be allowed to discuss serious moral issues like abortion free from such vile verbal threats and physical intimidation," she said.

"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".

Inge, a first-year student at Manchester University, said that some protesters expressed the hope that she would be raped.

"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," she said. 

"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."

Lorc├ín Price, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom UK (ADF), called on Manchester University and its Students' Union to protect the rights of all students. 

"University, of all places, should be where everyone can learn, debate, challenge and discuss ideas that are important to us," said Price.

"The Higher Education (freedom of speech) Act 2022 was meant to secure this by ensuring universities took concrete steps to protect the rights of all students, including those with minority views who have been subjected to censorship.

"Yet, at Manchester University last night, we saw students' safety under threat as they spat at, threatened with rape, and barricaded into a venue by a fanatical mob".

"The Students Union has a duty of care to students to ensure their rights to free speech are protected. Debate is always welcome. Attempting to silence someone's beliefs through threats of violence is unacceptable behaviour in British society."

The Manchester Pro-Life Society had already come under intense scrutiny after a petition calling for its dissolution because of "potential harm" was launched anonymously online. It has been signed by nearly 20,000 people. 

Christian Concern's Paul Huxley said, "It's simple unbelievable that pro-lifers are portrayed as aggressive and their free speech restricted. It's sickening and unjust on so many levels."

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUG) is asking people to send a message of solidarity to members of the Manchester Pro-Life Society. 

"The courage of pro-life students in bearing the backlash of a pro-abortion society and overcoming great obstacles to fight for unborn babies must be commended," it said.

"Students at Manchester Pro-life Society need to know that we stand with them and support them."