Abortion tensions: PSNI treating attacks on two pro-life demonstrators as hate crimes
The PSNI says it is treating attacks on two pro-life demonstrators in Coleraine as hate crimes.
Police said they are investigating reports of two incidents at a local health centre in the town in the past week. During the first incident, police said, a man reported being verbally abused and having a poster damaged when confronted by another man. The incident happened on the Castlerock Road at 1.35pm on June 9.
Then on Wednesday June 16 at around 11.35am, red paint was thrown over a man who subsequently required hospital treatment.
“Both reports are being treated as hate crimes by police and enquiries are ongoing,” the PSNI said.
Mark Lambe, spokesman for Abolish Abortion NI (formerly CBR NI), said that shortly after 11am on Wednesday, a man approached one pro-life demonstrator and sprayed him with red paint. “The PSNI were quickly on the scene and immediately requested that an ambulance attend as paint had been sprayed directly in the victim’s face and had gone into his eyes,” he said.
“This latest attack follows on from another violent attack last week on Wednesday around noon. On this occasion a man verbally abused those present before physically attacking them and damaging their property.”
A subsequent Facebook appeal for information, he said, was bombarded with messages from people praising the attacker for his violent actions.
“Unfortunately these attacks are becoming a regular occurence and the blame for that must lie squarely with pro abortion supporters who have been pushing the false narrative that Christians are harassing and intimidating people. The reality is that Christians are outside these clinics to offer physical, emotional and financial support to women who would avail of it; they are there to show love and offer help.”
But pro-choice activist and academic Goretti Horgan said Mr Lambe’s group should consider how it impacts on passers-by and on those attending health care facilities.
“While Abolish Abortion NI says that the idea they harass and intimidate people accessing health care is a narrative ‘pushed’ by pro-choice groups, the reality is that patients report feeling harassed and intimidated by them and their tactics,” she said. “In Coleraine, the building they protest outside is the Mental Health Resource Centre; in Derry they protest outside a centre which includes GPs, children’s services and physiotherapy. Those attending these facilities may be triggered by the highly-magnified gory photos they display.”
Emma Campbell of Alliance for Choice told the News Letter her organisation has distributed information advising pro-choice supporters on how to deal with clinic protestors.
“These tips are based on de-escalation and not engaging,” she told the News Letter. There is no suggestion that the two men who attacked pro-life supporters in Coleraine had any links to her organisation.
Police are appealing for witnesses or anyone with information to call 101, quoting reference 708 16/06/21.
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