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Pro-choice campaigners deface anti-abortion stand at Bristol Freshers’ Fair

‘It was really weird that there was not a single female face on the stall’


Pro-choice activists dismantled the anti-abortion ‘Students for Life’ stall at Bristol’s Freshers’ Fair on Friday.

The pro-life stand, staffed predominantly by men, was approached by three protestors who began taking down pro-life signs.

Two female students from the group unveiled a large banner which read: “Abortion is a Human Right”.

This was met with cheering from passers-by as dozens of people in the tent started applauding.

They stood in front of the stall with their sign for roughly 10 minutes before security arrived and asked them to finish their protest.

Speaking to The Bristol Tab, one of the protestors said: “Everyone was clapping.

“They should have expected it, as much as their voice is heard, lots of people are a lot louder than they are with those kinds of views.”

A witness who was in support of the protestors said: “This whole thing is about open discourse, and it was very peaceful.

“[Students for Life] should respect having the courage [to protest] in the first place.”

Regarding gender representation, the witness told The Tab: “It was really weird that there was not a single female face on the stall.

“I would feel a lot more comfortable talking to a woman about abortion.”

However, the campaigners’ approach was condemned by Students for Life. A representative for the group who declined to be named told The Bristol Tab: “I’m expecting people to come and disagree with us, however the large banner and stealing our posters is poor behaviour for a democratic society with freedom of speech.”

He insisted that the lack in female presence at their stand was not an issue, although he did believe that a woman may “not feel safe” in publicly advocating for such views.

A Bristol SU spokesperson said:

“There was a small protest which took place at the Welcome Fair on Friday against the “Students for Life” student group.  We support and respect the rights of students who wish to protest peacefully at our events. We understand that in this case the protest was over quite quickly. We’ll be meeting the Students for Life group later this week.

This latest controversy comes after the University of Bristol was criticised by Grant Shapps MP, the Secretary of State for Defence, for not allowing the Officer Training Corps to have a stand at the Fresher’s Fair.

Mr Shapps called the decision “absurd”, saying the defence industry was “crucial to protecting our freedom”, as well as the “prosperity and way of life”, all the while “offering graduates a chance to take on some of the most highly skilled jobs in the world.

“Trying to deprive students of these opportunities is wrong and anyone considering doing so should reconsider immediately,”

Concerning the refusal of the army stand, a Bristol SU Spokesperson said: “Bristol SU Welcome Fair is an event run and curated by Bristol SU to help build peer led communities whilst at University.

“It’s primarily an opportunity for our 350+ affiliated student groups to attract new student members, and we also host approximately 90 commercial stalls.

“We assess requests made by unaffiliated groups on a case by case basis, considering a number of factors which have been communicated to the OTC, including that groups like the OTC offer an experience (such as making friends, developing leadership skills and adventure activities) which is very similar to, and therefore in direct competition with, our affiliated student groups.”

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