'No place' for anti-LGBT protests outside Birmingham school, says police chief

21 May 2019, 12:57 | Updated: 21 May 2019, 14:08

A police chief has said there is "no place" for protests outside a primary school that has been teaching children about LGBT issues.

Dave Thompson, the chief constable of the West Midlands force, said there had been a "number of criminal offences" outside Birmingham's Anderton Park school since Sunday.

There was a report of assault and criminal damage on Sunday night on Dennis Road in Moseley, and the school reported that malicious communications were received on Thursday.

Police were also at the school on Monday after some parents kept their children off school in protest.

The lessons cover gender identity and same-sex relationships but protesters at the Muslim-majority school accuse teachers of not respecting their Islamic beliefs and "indoctrinating" children.

The head teacher is refusing to change the curriculum and has accused the demonstrators of spreading lies.

It is understood a petition calling for her sacking could be handed in on Tuesday.

But Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson has said many of the protesters do not have children at the school. She also supports the idea of an "exclusion zone" to shield pupils from the chanting and placards.

The chief constable said the protests had so far been lawful, but that he is now becoming increasingly concerned.

"In the last 24 hours, a number of criminal offences have taken place that the force will investigate and seek to bring people to justice," he said.

"As a citizen of this city, I have observed these protests and the rhetoric around them with increasing concern. West Midlands Police values and celebrates the diversity of this area.

"We believe the strength of this city is in tolerant and diverse communities.

"Sadly, this is not the image of Birmingham that these events are projecting around the country and the world."

Ms Hewitt-Clarkson told Sky News on Monday that there had been intimidation and a form of picket-line at the school gates.

"There were a group of parents in various different positions around the school blocking the pavement," she said.

"So my deputy head went out and asked them to move to allow parents to bring in their children, and they were harassing people."

Birmingham MP Jess Phillips was also filmed clashing with a protester as she accused him of damaging the reputation of the Muslim community.

The man, Shakeel Afsar, accused her of being "intolerant towards us" and "confrontational".

Mr Thompson said the row was "creating an environment where those who seek division will have cause to celebrate and to exploit".

"Frankly, a primary school is no place for the continuance of a large scale protest, however lawful," he added.

He said the police could not solve the dispute but would support both sides in having dialogue and trying to resolve the matter.

"Equally, we will act where people see to exploit these matters and break the law," he said.