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LGBT activists allegedly 'pelted with eggs' in row over same-sex education

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A group of LGBT activists were allegedly 'pelted with eggs' while putting up messages of support for under-fire teachers at the centre of a row over LGBT education.

The group of 12 women and one man, claim they came under attack while putting up banners, pom poms and rainbow flags, outside Anderton Park Primary School in Sparkbrook, Birmingham, last night [May 19].

Tracy, 49, said she felt 'scared and intimidated' after a group of men gathered in the street, several arriving in cars, told them to get out of their community and chanted slogans.

Tracy said: "It was awful. I was shaking. We had no intention of disturbing anyone - we were putting up the banners and messages we had made to show solidarity with staff.

We wanted them to see something positive when they turned up for work, and to see they had our backing.

– Tracy, LGBT activist
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West Midlands Police arrived after the women and nearby residents made 999 calls.

Most of the artwork, which included a note that said 'love is the answer', has since been ripped down.

It happened amid a daily campaign opposing the school's teaching of messages of LGBT equality to its mainly Muslim pupils.

And it came on the eve of a threatened mass withdrawal of pupils at the school in the increasingly bitter dispute.

That walkout is due to take place today [May 20].

Shakeel Afsar, who says he's been elected as parents' spokesman but does not have children at the school, laid the blame for the incident with the LGBT group.

He said their actions were provocative, turning up as night fell, disturbing residents and causing intimidation by putting up rainbow flags and 'inflammatory messages'.

In a series of tweets, Mr Afsar accused the group of being 'vandalisers' who had provoked residents by arriving during Ramadan as most residents were about to mark Iftar, the breaking of the fast.

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In videos posted on social media from the scene, a man can be heard leading loud chants of "We will not back down" in the street while the activists stand by the school fence.

Honor Bridgman, one of the LGBT activists, said the group's intention was to drape banners and messages on the school gates so staff at the school would know they had the backing of people in the city who supported their equality stance.

Honor said: "We turned up when we did in the hope they would still be there in the morning.

"We have stood by and observed these protests for weeks. We felt we wanted to do something, in a loving way.

"We have consciously not organised counter-protests as we feel that would make matters worse.

"We did not want a confrontation. We wanted to quietly do what we were doing, and leave."

Honor said she had previously turned up at the protests with cupcakes to hand out to others.

Last night, Honor said her group called the police after eggs were allegedly thrown.

Honor and Tracy are from Supporting Education of Equality and Diversity in Schools (SEEDS), a voluntary group based in Birmingham which seeks to build bridges between schools and the parents who oppose equality teaching.

They say they sought - and were given - prior permission from the school to put up their artwork.

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One resident of Dennis Road said the night's events had left him shaken.

He said: "It looked incredibly intimidating. At one point the group putting up messages were trying to leave the street but were blocked in by the large group of men."

The resident said four houses in the street had rainbow flags in windows as a silent support for the school in the wake of the ongoing protests.

He said some were taken down last night in case of further trouble.

The resident said: "The LGBT group were incredibly intimidated at one point and were trying to leave the street but were blocked in by the large group of men.

"Eventually they managed to get out as a group but a couple of them were trapped as they were parked near to where the men were congregating. Around this point some of the posters and artwork were torn down."

The onlooker claimed Mr Afsar also started up chants, adding: "The police did eventually come but most of the commotion had died down by that time.

"Fortunately they have been keeping a presence on the street all night despite being stretched thin on resources, which is much appreciated."

Other community activists took to social media to show their support for the residents affected.

Javed Aqbal, a community and charity worker, posted on Twitter: "Why come out at night time to a venue where the community tensions are at a boiling point already.

"Far right attacks on high alert...especially in Ramadan we are told to be vigilant. Why do such an act. Its puzzling. #provocative"

The situation at the school has been simmering for six weeks, with almost daily protests at the gates at home time, led by Mr Afsar.

Mr Afsar says he is backed by nearly 300 of the school's parents who, like him, want the school to suspend LGBT books and discussions, which he says offend most of the school's mainly Muslim parents.

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Protesters claim they are not homophobic or against LGBT rights - but do not want their children to be told it is OK to be gay, or learn that some families have two mums or two dads.

Speaking previously, protester Atia Khan said parents felt children were getting more information at school than at home, and because parents did not know what was being said they were unprepared to answer their children's questions.

Ms Khan said: "They are talking to them about gay and lesbian, it puts ideas into their heads when they should just be thinking like children."

One man, who said he lived locally but did not have children at the school, said: "Our children go to school to learn maths and science, not learn this rubbish. They will have no future if they don't learn the right things."

He added: "They should be left to be kids." Another protester at an earlier protest was Abdul Ghaffar. He said his children went to other local schools but he lived locally and owned a bed shop nearby.

Mr Ghaffar: "My six-year-old son came home from school and said to me: 'Could I be gay?' I was shocked. It's not right."

When asked how he had responded to his son, Mr Ghaffar said: "I told him if that was the case he need not come back home. He's not having my title. I told him if I had been gay he would not be here."

Last week one protester, interviewed on television, said that being LGBT was "not acceptable in Islam".

"God created man, then he created women for man's pleasure and companionship - not another man," he said.

The school's head teacher, Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, responded on Twitter: "Not this woman, or any of the women in my school, or any of the girls. "This is why we have laws on equality. What shameful words and behaviour that have been invited onto the pavements of my lovely school."

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Birmingham City Council has stood with the school through the protests.

Cllr John Cotton, cabinet member for communities, said: "These views are despicable, discriminatory and sexist. The people voicing them so noisily do not speak for Birmingham or any of its communities.

"We reject their prejudice and intolerance. I will leave no stone unturned in this fight and together we must stop this."

Yardley MP Jess Phillips also added: "This school is minutes from my home and these people are miles away from representing the people where I live. Love and tolerance will out but only if we stand against hate."

Moseley Labour councillor Kerry Jenkins said the head teacher had the full support of the city council, and the school was merely fulfilling its legal duties under the Equality Act.

West Midlands Police has been contacted for comment on last night's events.