We marched for peace – not to ‘bully’ Stella Creasy

Sue Wheat gives the truth behind media reports of an 'intimidating' anti-war protest in MP Stella Creasy's Walthamstow constituency
3 December 2015

Bullying? Hardly. Campaigners stick anti-war post-it notes to the local Labour Party office.

I just want to set the record straight for anyone reading or listening to the news about Walthamstow and Stella Creasy, which as far as I can tell is totally untrue.

On Tuesday a local resident Sophie Bolt and Rev Steven Saxby organised a family vigil, which myself and others helped to publicise quickly on social media. No one asked me to do it, I just did it.

It was a beautiful, calm meet-up of for anyone who wanted to show our MP Stella Creasy that we wanted her to vote NO on air strikes in Syria. We met at the Queen’s Road mosque with candles in jam jars and walked quietly to Stella’s Labour office on Orford Road, where there were speeches by religious and community leaders.

It was a beautiful, community, inspiring family event of people trying to make their voices heard against the airstrikes and trying to influence Stella, even though we knew she was in Westminster.

We took post-it notes and thought it would be powerful to write messages of peace and stick them on the office window. It looked beautiful and powerful.

The next day we realised someone had put up a Facebook post with a picture of the start of the vigil, which was outside the mosque. You can see the mosque on the right if you zoom in, but mostly it's just the houses next to it. He claimed we were outside Stella’s house and said something incendiary about her not having children to worry about. (His exact post was: 'outside [her] house... apparently she has still to make up her mind – and she has no children to upset'.) He managed to get some police in the pic which made it look like a demo and it was dark and blurry. In fact the very low police presence were very helpful and friendly throughout.

Then we went to her office about half a mile away. There were about 200 people including children and various community and religious leaders spoke – it was a very inspiring peace rally. The police were laid-back and friendly there was no intrusive police presence.

Now for the most worrying thing: the picture and Facebook post was found by the Independent newspaper and used in an article. This started off a mass media misinformation story about constituents bullying Stella. It was then picked up by LBC radio, the Standard and many other media and went viral on social media. I tried to counteract lots of it, especially with journalists following up the story.

When I realised that the Independent had used his picture and post to create their story stating Stella was targeted I contacted the journalist but she wouldn't retract it. Then it went all over the world. I was sobbing with frustration. Please share this version of events.

There may of course be things I don’t know that happened separate to the vigil. All I know is the vigil was peaceful and non-threatening and the thousands of Facebook posts I’ve seen from Walthamstow residents are respectful but utterly desperate to share their views with Stella to vote NO. That is democracy – that is what she asked for. That is not bullying.

What a stressful few days. Peace. And do share.

Update – Rev Steven Saxby, one of the organisers of the vigil, adds:

"This week I took part in a vigil with a wide section of the local community. I am deeply saddened by the misinformation about the vigil which has circulated in the media, and grateful to Sue Wheat for correcting the misreporting of the vigil.

I am also surprised that some in the party appear to be overly influenced by irresponsible coverage in the media, such as the Mail’s description of the peaceful people on our vigil being called ‘Hard-left hate mobs’ and the Mirror stating ‘Vicars, imams and net trolls target MPs’.

I am shocked by Tom Watson’s statement on Radio 4 today that ‘any Labour members on that demo should be removed from the party’.

At the same time as I condemn intimidation of MPs or their staff, I reiterate that the vigil was not intimidation, and condemn those who seek to portray democratic, peaceful actions as such. This is also is a form of intimidation.

For my part, I shall not be intimidated into not speaking on issues about which I am passionate and alongside others within and beyond the Labour Party.

I refute the erroneous allegations about me and about our peaceful vigil, and look forward to continuing to support Stella Creasy as MP for Walthamstow, and the campaigns to elect Sadiq Khan as mayor and Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister."


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Will Podmore 3 December 2015, 15.18

The press has been vile – what else do we expect? MPs are accountable – that is a principle of representative democracy. Most MPs betrayed us. Parliament was a disgrace.

Eveline 3 December 2015, 21.38

Perhaps Stella herself can be asked to publicly repudiate the misinformation in the media? That should put a stop to it….

Robert leyland 3 December 2015, 23.00

Thank you for providing this very helpful and important perspective! It is really worrying the way things are being so heavily distorted by the establishment, media and parliamentary labour party.

David Lancaster 4 December 2015, 13.49

How dare Tom Watson, a noted right-winger, supporter of Trident and the Iraq War, Trade Union Friend of Israel etc., state that Labour Party members taking part in a peaceful protest and lobbying of their MP should be expelled from the Party? How does this fit with Jeremy Corbyn’s vision of a fairer, more respectful and democratic politics? Is this any different to Cameron calling those MPs who disagree with him on this matter friends of terrorists?

Emma Falconer 4 December 2015, 14.12

Just to add my name to those writing about this peaceful protest – I was there and saw the post-its going up in the shape of NO. Felt happy to be there surrounded by a lot of young people and people of all religions and none – really happy to be living in Walthamstow now – what a brilliant community. As for Watson – he has seized on this peaceful protest and is using it I suspect to beat the Corbyn supporters here – and to intimidate them. Here lies the real bullying.

Harry Mc Farland 4 December 2015, 16.42

I think the damage is done for ‘stow. She needs to resign and give way to some one who cares about the views and values of residents.

Marion 5 December 2015, 07.26

I was at the peaceful gathering too, and am glad to read the above posts. Too much damage done now, some of the local community is getting real serious intimidation & violence, a lot worse than Tweets & emails. Stella’s refuting the lies so late, & the anti-Corbyn stuff is too much for me, detracts from the real objectives. I joined Labour to get rid of the Tories & create a better future, but most of them are more intent on removing Corbyn. Looks like they may need him more than they realise, judging by Oldham. The fools. Who are the real bullies? As for online abuse, you block them. Us Black & Asian people also have racists to contend with, and you just need to block them! Serious stuff occuring would be reported to police and investigated, MPs get good security protection. Walthamstow was never like this, I’ve been in Stow 40 yrs, never thought I’d leave, but cannot wait to move to a neighbouring constituency with a real proper MP again. Very good luck to those I leave behind. Scuse the rant, am still upset about the bombing of Syrian workers forced by necessity/ISIS into doing jobs in oil production etc. Next the West will go for Assad, and the entire country will be rubble, and its population dead or fled, and Russia & US will fight for the oil. So Tom Watson wants to expel any members at the peace vigil for “intimidating bahaviour”? Bully! But I’m not going to wail to the natiomal press, I’m doing something about it. I’ll save him the bother & go with dignity (after attending one final PR show by Ms Creasy on Sunday). That is if I haven’t already been expelled, in which case perhaps I won’t miss much, after all we already have Stella’s reasons for voting YES. Perhaps the people she told she’d vote NO will take her to task, also be accused of bullying and be expelled too along with the rest of us. Honestly, it would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.

keith 5 December 2015, 10.22

While i don’t hold out any hope, it might be an idea making a complaint to the so-called independent press regulator IPSO. If nothing did come of it, then at least it would show the people on the vigil, who know what actually happened, the sort of people we are up against.
As for the Independent, IIRC isn’t a member of IPSO but the fact that the journalist refused to publish your side of the story means that they failed to adhere to at least one guideline. They are still open to legal criticism through the law.

Kat Rose 5 December 2015, 10.31

Stella Creasy has told The Guardian that the protest was not outside her house and she does not believe it went past it: she’s told a national media outlet (The Guardian) the truth and they’ve reported it.

Kwame P., Aboagye 6 December 2015, 16.24

Am disappointed with my local Mp, Stella Creasy, because I felt that as one of her constitutes, she could have opposed the air strikes in Syria.

I know that Stella is committed to women’s right, but am afraid she got this one completely wrong, because also women who have babies in Syria are also catching hell in the country and so military attacks so unjustly and crude.

I respect Stella as my local Mp, but I think she made an error.

Uncomfortable socialist 6 December 2015, 17.58

I have a dreadful feeling we on the left have made a dreadful mistake. Almost as grave as dropping bombs on civilians and wondering why we are not profusely thanked. In the good old days we used to proudly proclaim ‘Neither Washington nor Moscow’, yet today we seem quite happy to cosy up to a religion which many observe is misogynistic, homophobic and opposed to a rational, material view of society. This is not a broad alliance with progressive liberals against fascism, it is partnering with a reactionary ideology. Certainly, don’t bomb Syria, but let’s not get into bed with a group that should be viewed with as much suspicion as Zionism

Tigger 8 December 2015, 21.33

Why not ask the police to make a statement, re their presence at the demonstration/vigil?
This could then be sent to the media with a request for retraction of their versions.
If retractions are not forthcoming, then there’s a press complaints committee.
Personally, I’ve always got on well with the police and found individual officers extremely helpful.

Sheila 11 December 2015, 12.28

I sympathise with Sue and Steven – I was part of the Don’t Bomb Syria protests in Parliament Square – and was deeply upset by the misrepresntaion of what that was about and of those who attended. It was an incredible experience of thousands of protestesters who demonstrated in a totally peaceful, discipled way – few police and really cool, not a single incident, as far as I am aware. I am not affiliated to any organization, never have been, but it was really useful that STWC coordinated it giving voice to people like me who had carefully followed arguments for and against bombing and were wholly unconvinced that
More bombing could possibly be a solution. To be characterised as terrorist sympathisers – and not only by the Tories ot the Tory press – was both offensive and, in my view, wilfully mischievous!

Will Podmore 16 December 2015, 12.53

Corbyn says he’s against wars, but he refused to impose a three-line whip on his MPs, thus allowing Cameron to win the vote for war against Syria.

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