Municipalities should be able to prevent anti-vaccination protesters from demonstrating outside schools using exclusion orders, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said.
Sir Keir said it was “disgusting” that protesters spread “dangerous misinformation” to children.
He urged the government to “urgently” update the law so that exclusion zones can be quickly set up around school gates.
Ministers also expressed concern at these protests.
Interior Minister Priti Patel said freedom of protest is a key part of democracy, but he told the Daily Telegraph: “It is absolutely unacceptable for children, teachers or parents to be intimidated and harassed outside school by protesters peddling misinformation and dangerous lies about the life-saving vaccine program.”
Nearly eight out of 10 schools said they were targeted by anti-vaccine protesters in a recent survey by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) union.
Most of this happened via emails threatening legal action, but ASCL said staff were threatened with physical harm in some cases and protesters had access to school sites on other occasions.
Earlier this month, a Gateshead school principal said anti-vaccine protesters had left students distressed after showing them photos of what appeared to be dead children.
- Anti-vax protesters target children at the school gate
- Which children are vaccinated and why?
Sir Keir, who is a former director of prosecutors, said local authorities should be empowered to immediately impose public space protection orders, if agreed by the school, the council chief and the local police chief.
Such orders have previously been used to move protesters out of abortion clinics, but they often take a long time to organize.
Labor said express orders could be applied within five days and remain in effect for six months.
Sir Keir said: “The spread of vaccines among children is too low and the launch by the government is painfully slow. Everything must be done to get as quickly as possible into this public health emergency.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL union, said the schools were already “under great pressure” due to the disruption of the pandemic and “the last thing they need is the additional problem of protesters outside their gates” .
Covid vaccines have been key to keeping students in school, he said, adding: “If protesters think otherwise, there are many ways to express their views without resorting to targeting schools.”
ASCL previously said that of the 526 responses from schools eligible for the Covid vaccination program for 12- to 15-year-olds, 13% reported seeing protesters immediately outside their school. One in five reported protesters in the local area.
About 18 schools said the protesters had access to the school and protested inside the premises, and 20 said they had received communications threatening physical harm to staff.
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- virus Mers
- Keir Starmer
- Coronavirus vaccines
- Anti-vaccination movement
- Labor Party
Which children are vaccinated and why?
- 5 days ago
Children targeted by anti-vax protesters at school
- October 8
Anti-vax protesters target children at the school gate
- October 5th
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