Israel Shared Parenting Advocates Applaud Fathers 4 Justice Lincoln Memorial Protest

By Herb Brandon
Israel News Agency

Jerusalem ----August 20 ....... At least two British Fathers 4 Justice activists were arrested as they protested gender bias discrimination and lack of access to their children at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC on Friday.

The divorced dads, wearing Captain America and Batman costumes, had scaled the landmark memorial and unfurled a banner which read: "For the Fathers of the Nation: Fathers 4 Justice has arrived."

US Parks Police officers evacuated dozens of tourists from the memorial, which has been the site of many famous speeches, including Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" address.

The men were identified as Jolly Stanesby, from Ivybridge, Devon, and Mike Downes, from Manchester. Both men have been detained in the UK for similar protests.

In February, Stanesby was arrested for climbing Stonehenge while dressed as Fred Flintstone. In November 2004 both men, dressed as Father Christmas, forced the closure of the Severn Bridge when they spent more than five hours on its gantry.

Fathers-4-Justice founder Matt O'Connor told the Israel News Agency that the non-violent protest against gender bias discrimination marks the start of a Fathers 4 Justice campaign in the US.


"After a two-hour meeting with Dr. Farrell where the plan was hatched. There is a fragmented fathers movement in the United States that would, it appears, unify with a common sense of purpose and solidarity to raise awareness of this vital social issue. We will be campaigning throughout the US during the US Presidential campaign to create greater awareness among the candidates and the public. F4J is even planning on running one of our own candidates in this election."

“I have been inspired by the words of Dr. Farrell, Dr. Baskerville, conference organiser Tom Golden and leading US radio DJ Glenn Sacks, to start work immediately on a battle plan to commence our educational campaign in the United States at the earliest opportunity.”

F4J say that the plans are at an “evaluation” stage at the moment, but that with the pre-requisite funding and infrastructure, there was nothing to stop the organization creating a “provocative and humorous” campaign within weeks.

Leading social scientist Dr Stephen Baskerville said today, “With this development, we have a chance to build a fire under this movement.”

In Israel, Fathers 4 Justice Israel Director Joel Leyden smiled upon hearing news of the protest.

"In Israel, in the UK, in the US and around the world we are now witnessing a revolution where divorced, loving and caring dads are now demanding equal access to their children." Leyden adds: "The Lincoln Memorial was a fitting location to protest gender bias discrimination, as Martin Luther King Jr. had protested racial discrimination there. These were brave, caring and loving dads who placed their lives on the line just to have equal time with their children. They are not criminals, they are truly super dads."

Jolly Stanesby and Mike Downes scaled the statue as the tourists gathered around were warned by Park Police to put their cameras down and stop "encouraging them". But many of the tourists upon recognizing the human rights protest and its cause began to cheer.

A Fathers 4 Justice "support crew" of four other father's and children's rights campaigners was also held as the memorial was evacuated by US authorities.

The group - which campaigns to ensure divorced fathers are given access to their children - warned that this was the first of "many, many more" similar protests across the States.

O'Connor said: "Yet again Fathers 4 Justice in the UK has led the way with an audacious protest to raise the global profile of fatherlessness and the social catastrophe it is causing in first world countries.

"Given the problem is not one that is unique to any one country or culture, a first world problem requires a first world, international response.

"This is our response to the inaction of the US authorities in child welfare, in family courts, in local and federal states. There will be many, many more to follow.

"Now we have lit the flame, we can begin the struggle to make equal parenting a reality in the United States, and combat the insidious gender apartheid that separates children from their fathers in the family courts."

The group plans to run its first national awareness campaign in the US during the presidential elections.

Stanesby and Downes unveiled their Captain America and Batman costumes after first scaling the memorial dressed as tourists and unfurled a white banner which read: "For the Fathers of the Nation: Fathers 4 Justice has arrived"

The memorial, which is on the National Mall in the US capital, was built to honor the 16th US President Abraham Lincoln and has been the site of many famous speeches, including Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream", delivered on August 28 1963, during the rally at the end of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Fathers 4 Justice has staged similar stunts in the UK including scaling Big Ben, York Minster, Westminster Abbey and the Royal Courts of Justice, as well as throwing purple powder at then English Prime Minister Tony Blair in the House of Commons.

Father's rights activist Bob Norton was present in Washington when the two Fathers 4 Justice activists beached security and climbed onto the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. He sent the following eye-witness account of the incident:

"I was at the Lincoln Memorial today and witnessed and filmed two F4J UK folks climb into Abe Lincoln’s lap at the Lincoln Memorial. I was detained for about an hour by park police and a SWAT team arrived quickly thereafter. Although they were respectful to me, they patted me down three times and I told them I did not consent to any search.

"I was quarter of a mile away after they cleared the room when a park ranger tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to come back. There were about 150 or more people in the Lincoln Memorial room when it started, many were taking pictures and video. One fellow yelled and tried to get everyone to stop taking pictures saying 'That’s what they want.'

"Four security guards tackled Bob Dickerson to the floor and sat on him. They forced his head into the stone floor. The security people over-reacted for sure. I think they tackled him just because he was trying to leave. The SWAT people that arrived earlier were more level-headed.

"Give these men water, not handcuffs.
They have already been handcuffed from their kids."

"I got this all on video but they seized my video chip and returned my camera. In addition to the two F4j UK guys I surmised that two others were arrested, though I was separated from others most of the time while detained.

"I have learned that the names of the U.S. citizens arrested are Bob Dickerson and Donald Ten. Don is the F4J California coordinator.

"It is F4J’s mission to do peaceful protests but the timing and location probably are not the best for this type of thing in DC with the hair trigger our government shows in using the Patriot Act etc.

"There must have been at least 10 people videotaping this event so I would expect some video to be available soon.

"The two F4J protesters climbed up the monument with help from a couple of others who I believe passed up stuff to them. They then changed into their superhero suits on top of Lincoln’s lap and began to put up a sign.

"When the security people came in, they began to clear the room and took no action to get them down. Just told them to come down. I started to leave, as I was asked with everyone else to leave.

"My best guess is they were up there 30-40 minutes, and I saw some video that was shot with a zoom lens from outside where you could see them up there. I was detained outside where I could see nothing but the SWAT guy told me they were taken down in the elevator to the police bus. I am told they are at 'Central Cell Block' in lock down tonight.

"The video I saw from another source shows all this and should be available at the US F4J site by morning."

The civil rights group Fathers 4 Justice (F4J) was founded in December 2002 by Matt O'Connor after he experienced first hand the injustices of the secret family courts as he struggled to see his two boys Daniel and Alexander after a traumatic divorce. Started as a vehicle for social change, F4J quickly became the high-wire act of protest groups, whether powder-bombing the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, scaling the balcony at Buckingham Palace in a Batman Costume, invading the Pulpit at York Minster during a General Synod Service or taking the National Lottery Draw live off air on BBC1 in front of ten million viewers.

But behind the headlines and dramatic protests is a new creed for family law enshrined in our documents "Family Justice On Trial ­ Opening The Door On Closed Courts" and "Blueprint For Family Law In The 21st Century." These pioneering, ideas-led documents set out radical and visionary frameworks for a fair, just, open and equitable system of family law. Both documents are essential reading and available on this web site for the first time.

O'Connor temporarily suspended operations on 18th January 2006 after extremist elements from splinter groups were accused in the Sun Newspaper of plotting to kidnap the UK Prime Minister's son. At the time he said "We are in the business of reuniting children with their fathers, not separating them."

Since then the group has resumed activities, combining constructive engagement with direct action, recommencing activities on May 20th 2006 with it's controversial "Family Law Lotto: Next Time It Could Be You" protest on BBC1.

A series of spectacular protests are planned for 2007 including "Fathers 4 Justice Day," a unique Father's Day protest which was held in London on Friday, 15th June 2007.

F4J campaigns not just in the name of the father, but in the name of all parents, grandparents and children seeking equality in family law. The achievements of F4J to date are best described by the Times Newspaper who in January 2006 wrote:

"F4J caught the spirit of the times: they reflected the zeitgeist, and they changed it...for all the flaws within F4J, the issue of fatherhood has a currency that would have been unimaginable three years ago...when historians look back on British Society at the start of the third millennium, they will accord a small but important chapter to the men in tights."

In just a few years Fathers 4 Justice has not only effected "climate change", but it has also succeeded in discrediting the secret courts and undermining public confidence in them. The result has been to force the government to advance proposals to open up the secret family courts to greater scrutiny and propose tougher enforcement of contact orders.

"The current system of family justice is a grotesque obscenity that is untenable in its current form. We do not recognize the authority of these secret courts. Whatever it takes, however long it takes and whatever the sacrifice, we will prevail and achieve the reforms that every child and family in this country desperately deserve and need," says O'Connor.

Fathers-4-Justice U.S.A. is a federally recognized 501(c)(3) organization, so all memberships and financial contributions are 100% tax-deductible.

Leyden, who serves in the reserves in the security forces in Israel had the following advice for both divorced dads who wish to protest and the police and other security forces in the US.

"When Fathers 4 Justice first came to the United States about a year ago, they were being tracked by FBI and NYPD INTEL agents. The group blew the agents cover and began a dialogue that basically turned into a warm, respectful and friendly compromise. The compromise was that Fathers 4 Justice would promise not to protest in New York in exchange for a New York Times feature on the plight of divorced dads who are denied access to their children."

Leyden concludes: "US INTEL has a pretty good idea of who Fathers 4 Justice activists are and rather than chasing them down US landmarks at gunpoint (not good for any child to witness) they should work with them. Police and other security forces must understand that even in a post 9 / 11 society that a true democracy embraces acts of non-violent protests for human rights. The divorced dads should contact local law enforcement as they commence their protests against gender bias discrimination so that local law enforcement will know that these guys are not not evil and deadly Islamic terrorists from al Qaeda, Hamas or Islamic Jihad. And law enforcement officers should respect these men for creating an awareness campaign for which only all of our children can benefit from."

"Give these men water, not handcuffs. They have already been handcuffed from their kids."




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