Heavy-handed police presence at 4-strong Pope demo?
Peaking through the iron gates of the Vatican’s residence in London, four people rallied quietly on a rainy afternoon holding photographs of children they said were abused by Catholics priests around the world.
With a week to go before Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain, the low-key rally drew little press and the activists were about to leave when six police cars swooped on the scene flashing warning lights.
Passers-by looked on in bewilderment as officers got out of the cars and poured into the leafy street in Wimbledon, south London. Local residents craned their necks from windows and balconies to see what was going on.
One policeman used surgical gloves to collect soggy placards into a plastic bag. One police officer said they had received reports of “disturbances” outside the Nunciature, or papal diplomatic mission, where the Pope is expected to stay during his visit to London next week
Holding placards reading “Protect kids not predators”, the activists said the display of police force was aimed at intimidating protesters ahead of the visit as they prepare to draw public attention to issues such as child abuse and homosexuality.
Some activists, representing a U.S. and a British campaign group, said they were sexually abused by priests when they were children themselves.
“This is deeply personal to all of us. I hope the Pope is able to listen and to actually do something,” said Pete Saunders, of Britain’s NAPAC anti-child abuse charity.
There will be a large rally in central London this Saturday organised by the Protest the Pope campaign.