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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

December 3, 2015
5 min read

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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