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Fathers-4-Justice blaze trail for father’s rights

By Mark Charalambous, Massachusetts News, July 9, 2004

Also published:
Fathers-4-Justice blaze trail for father's rights  Massachusetts News July 9, 2004
Fathers-4-Justice blaze trail for father's rights Mens News Daily July 5, 2004
Fathers-4-Justice blaze trail for father’s rights Men's Hour July 5, 2004

Marshall Promotes Ultra-Feminist Agenda

       Margaret Marshall doles out approximately $15 million in public funds every year to Bar Associations who help the “poor.” Her grants go only to those who have a radical, feminist agenda. For example, no father is ever helped in a divorce or custody dispute  only women receive the millions of public dollars. The system is not rational.

       MassNews has reported many terrible cases where this policy has damaged children, who are being ripped from their fathers as a result. This has been protested for years by the Fatherhood Coalition to deaf ears. This article is by Mark Charalambous, a leader of the Coalition, who argues that nothing will change until the fathers become much more aggressive as they have done in England with a group known as Fathers-4-Justice.

Fathers-4-Justice blaze trail for father’s rights

By Mark Charalambous

Amberell Photography and Digital Imaging
“D-Day” for Father’s Rights — F4J march through London to deliver demands to Tony Blair.

         What would it take to see the following headline emblazoned across the top of page two of the New York Times: “Family law system is evil”?

       Would you settle for this headline on the front page of the Boston Globe: “The outlaw fathers fighting back”?

       The first headline, which was completed by reporting about the “flour bombing” of Prime Minister Tony Blair, appeared in the May 21 London Telegraph, accompanied by a photograph of Ron Davis and Guy Harrison, the two Fathers-4-Justice (F4J) defendants leaving police custody, hands upraised in victory sign and salute to well-wishers.

       Since F4J infiltrated the televised Prime Minister’s “Question Time” in Parliament two days prior and threw a condom filled with purple flour (the color signifying equality) at Blair, the mistreatment of fathers in family courts became a much discussed topic throughout the media in Britain.  For days following, the op-ed pages of the newspapers have been filled with discussion about the plight of divorced fathers.

       Most recently, F4J staged a massive protest march through the streets of London on June 18, for Father’s Day – or “D-Day, Day of the Dad” as they renamed it for the occasion – to deliver their “Blueprint for Family Law in the 21st Century,” to Blair at 10 Downing St.

      The procession included a festooned double-decker red bus, a massive banner proclaiming “Day of the Dad,” a giant purple balloon, marching drummers and stilt walkers, and of course a fraternity of costumed superheroes. Add to these over a thousand marchers (as reported by the newspapers) – men and women – dressed in purple, holding purple flags and signs with pictures of their children and messages such as: “I am a Dad,” and you have one powerful and effective message sent to the government.

       On arrival at Downing Street, a delegation of members handed the well-crafted Blueprint to an aide to the Prime Minister.

       The F4J brilliant PR campaign began late in 2002.  Focusing mainly on flamboyant publicity stunts, including civil disobedience, designed to hijack media attention and the public’s imagination, the campaign has been the most successful venture of any father’s rights advocacy organization in the history of the movement.

Amberell Photography and Digital Imaging
No shortage of ‘superhero dads’ at F4J Father’s Day march.

       From the same edition of the Telegraph, here’s how the editor of the Letters to the Editor page headlined the several letters on the subject: “Fathers are right to take radical action.”

Consider, the British government is now considering changing the age-old parliamentary institution of Question Time, where the Prime Minister defends himself for 30 minutes each week from the often scathing verbal attacks of the opposing party’s MPs (Members of Parliament, equivalent to our U.S. Congress).

       Sure, some of the press coverage was hostile, but in the larger context, negative press is irrelevant when we consider that people across the nation were for the first time all talking about father’s rights. The lead editorial of the Daily Telegraph on May 22 read “Angry fathers have a point, but not much of a cause.”  The following day, Sunday Telegraph columnist Jenny McCartney titled her piece, “Purple flour was not the best token of fatherly love.” 

       And last but not least, how can we forget the “good” father’s rights advocate letter writer who dutifully apologizes for F4J aggressive tactics: “While I deplore the actions of the members of Fathers-4-Justice … I sympathize with their frustration …” (Daily Telegraph, May 21).

       This reminds me of a private email I received from a “serious” member of the established father’s rights community in England following one of F4J’s first brilliant PR escapades in 2003.  I was then warned that F4J tactics threatened to derail progress underway in the Parliament regarding child custody legislation.

Short but explosive history

       Let’s backtrack to the emergence of F4J in 2002.

       The earliest record I can find of F4J activity is a reference in a BBC (online) news story of a Christmas 2002 event where about 100 men dressed as Santa Claus staged a sit-down protest at the Lord Chancellor’s Department in London. Next came a protest on May 21, 2003, when two members scaled a court building in Plymouth, naming it “U.K.’s worst family court.” The news report of this first action stated that F4J had “around 1,000 members.”

       They staged their next attack on June 13 in celebration of Father’s Day. According to the BBC story, about 50 members stormed Court One of the Family Division of the High Court in the Strand (London). The story reports the F4J claim that “fathers have been unable to publicize alleged miscarriages of justice because of a ‘conspiracy of silence in the Family Court.’”

       F4J apparently took the rest of the summer off, but struck again September 10.  Member Jolly Stanesby climbed a 120 ft-crane at the site of a new Crown Court in Exeter where he staged a solo three-day protest.

Amberell Photography and Digital Imaging
This superhero bus has two Spiderman’s aboard!

       Also in September, two men climbed the Tamar Bridge in Devon causing a 6-hour traffic jam as police attempted to coax them down. News coverage quoted numerous complaints by fathers of their problems with access to their children and their mistreatment in the British family courts. Showing a penchant for theater that was only to grow, one of the men who towered the bridge wore a Tony Blair mask.

       In October, the following month, F4J staged their next stunt in the nation’s capital. Two F4J members, Jolly Stanesby and Eddie Goreckwi dressed as Batman and Robin, scaled the roof of the Royal Court of Justice in London, while six colleagues equipped in “full contamination” gear infiltrated CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services) to “hunt down” individuals on the F4J “Most Wanted” set of playing cards.

Spiderman raises the bar

       Later that month, David Chick donned the costume of his three-year-old daughter’s favorite superhero, Spiderman, and climbed a 180-ft crane at Tower Bridge in London. Admittedly scared of heights, Chick nonetheless stayed in the crane for six days, causing huge traffic problems. According to Batman, a.k.a. Edward Gorecki, “He’s [Chick] a tough old boy. He doesn’t really like heights but he is a desperate man.”

       If you’re curious as to what it takes to compel a man to spend six days in a crane above Tower Bridge, read the comprehensive account of Chick’s (a.k.a. ‘Spiderman’) story at http://men.typepad.com/mens_hour/spiderman_tower_bridge_protest/index.html. Chick was exasperated by the failure of the courts to enforce its own orders for visitation which his ex flouted with impunity. It is an all-too-familiar tale of the lengths to which a vindictive woman can go – with the full complicity of the legal system – to destroy a loving father’s relationship with his daughter.

       In February, 2004, over 60 F4J members dressed in decontamination suits stormed a CAFCASS conference at the Britannia Hotel in Coventry, in the English midlands.

According to a F4J press release, following the February action, F4J was invited to meet Lord Filkin, Minister for the Family Courts, for “crisis talks.” The release says the meeting is a “last ditch effort to avoid all out civil disruption in the coming weeks and months as their numbers as well as a result of recent publicity.”

F4J/Steve Mayall
“Thousand people in the street,” for F4J “Day of the Dad.”

       In the press release, F4J founder Matthew O'Connor asserts “We are, every single one of us, prepared and ready in our resolve to stand and fight for our children's right to see both parents, be it on bridges, roads, gantry's, railways, ports. Every person in F4J knows the burden of responsibility for changing the law now lies on their shoulders. If the government doesn't act we will, and what you have seen to date is but a foretaste of things to come. We now have the critical mass necessary to implement a full scale national campaign of civil disruption and disobedience.”

 Positive results are evident

       But does this strategy work?  In October, a panel of senior judges unveiled proposals designed to grant fathers “significantly more access to their children,” an October Telegraph story reported. To thank them for their interest, and just to hammer the point home, F4J then announced that they would drive a tank through central London to protest against “a system heavily weighted against men.” The story records: “Lord Filkin, the constitutional affairs minister, has admitted a ‘rethink’ is needed and is meeting Geldof (Bob Geldof, rock music celebrity and father’s rights advocate) within weeks amid fears that militant action by fathers could bring the court system to its knees.”

       Most recently, earlier in June, the leader of the opposition Conservative party, Michael Howard (the “shadow Prime Minister” who would become Prime Minister if the Conservative Party gain more seats in Parliament than Tony Blair’s Labor Party in the next general election) seized the issue of father’s rights by making this public statement:

       “With around 4 million children living apart from natural parents it is important that those children enjoy contact with both parents as much as possible where that can be achieved. Too many non-resident parents are being failed by the system and deprived of the access to their children which they deserve and from which their children derive great benefit. The Conservative Party is determined to raise this problem up the political agenda and promote the rights and responsibilities of shared parenting.”

       If anyone thinks this would have happened without the highly visible civil disobedience campaign of F4J they are living in a fantasy world.

       F4J Parliamentary Coordinator Gary Burch had this to say on June 10: “…the awareness raised by our campaign is helping to create serious debate… Before F4J nothing was happening. Now we have a (government) Green paper due out any day, the Leader of the    Opposition coming out in support, a Fathers Day demo on Friday, our Blueprint for Family Law in the 21st Century which is also published this week, hunger striking grandparents and funpowder plot demo's in the House of Commons. This was unthinkable just 18 months ago.”

If anyone thinks this would have happened without the highly visible civil disobedience campaign of F4J they are living in a fantasy world. 

        In April, F4J scored one of their biggest PR coups by getting ink in the pages of the venerable news weekly The Economist. Read by more movers and shakers worldwide – including in the U.S. – than perhaps any other news periodical, the magazine ran a favorable story on father’s rights and F4J, including a nice picture of ‘Batman.’

       Perhaps the discovery of father’s rights by The Economist is related to a “blistering attack” on the legal system delivered earlier in April by Justice Munby, “one of the country’s most senior family judges.” According to the account in the Daily Telegraph (April 2), Munby, who sits in the Family Division of the High Court, said that judges needed to “face up honestly” to the failings of the system.

       F4J considers the statement “the most powerfully worded critique of the Family Courts to come from a senior judge.”  In addition to the Telegraph report, the story was reported on the front page of The Times, page two of The Guardian, as well as in The Sun, the Daily Mirror, and the Daily Mail. It was also a headline on BBC News Online.

       In the statement, Justice Munby blasted the courts for “scandalous” delays and mismanagement of cases, suggesting that the way courts deal with contact applications might even breach the European convention on human rights. He also called for short jail terms for mothers who persistently flout contact orders.

       Significantly, the senior judge also noted the need for the system to take account of public opinion over its failings. He feared that the number of fathers who had justifiable grievance was “too many for comfort.”

       In May of this year, prior to the Tony Blair “funpowder” incident in Parliament, F4J held two actions, one in Manchester, the other in Yorkshire. F4J members dressed in decontamination suits marched through the streets of Eccles in greater Manchester to protest the appointment of a pro-feminist, anti-father psychologist to a Family Court agency, and a law firm that has a record of destructive litigating. The first protest led to a violent altercation. According to the news report, the psychologist struck a F4J member in the face, fracturing his jaw.

       In Yorkshire, F4J again protested outside the offices of a father’s rights-hostile law firm.

Look up in the sky … it’s an international conspiracy

       This brief account of F4J protests is not exhaustive.  Other similar protests have been staged in different part of the U.K.  They claim their membership now to be in the thousands, receiving 11,000 inquiries immediately following the “funpowder” incident. Having just expanded to Australia and Canada, with Holland pending, they are about to embark on a launch here in the U.S. later this year.

       If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, admiration for F4J is growing rapidly worldwide. On May 22, ‘Batman’ seized media (and police) attention from a crane above Vancouver, BC. Last month, an American father’s rights organization staged a F4J-style “D-contamination” raid at a Birmingham, Alabama courthouse.

       If father’s rights advocates are serious about change, F4J has pointed the way.  “Build it and they will come” was the catchphrase in the sentimental baseball movie, “Field of dreams.”  Has the winning field for father’s rights finally been built?


The F4J web site is: http://www.fathers-4-justice.org/home

F4J–Wales website is: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/f4jswansea