Streets Of London: Spiderman holds city to Ransom

Published: Fri 7 Nov 2003 10:48 AM
From The Streets Of London With William Moloney
Spiderman holds a city to Ransom
I was going to write about a protest 2 weeks ago that I wandered past each day. Two men, dressed as Batman and Robin, had scaled the neo-gothic entrance to the Royal Courts of Justice. They unfurled a large and professionally printed banner that read “Kapow”. And then Batman stood, in silhouette against the gothic façade. It was a prefect picture opportunity, imitating both the mood and style of the Batman comics and movies.
Spiderman followed Batman. On Friday, a man dressed in a Spiderman costume scaled a crane overhanging Tower Bridge. In a torrential downpour Spiderman had to cross security fencing and jimmy himself to the first rungs of the cranes ladder. Once on the ladder he climbed directly to the top, unfurled his banner, put on his raincoat and waited. And he had planned for a wait. He had packed enough food and drink to last him for two weeks atop the crane.
It was not long before the Police noticed his banners and established that he did not intend to come down. They then took an extraordinary move. They closed Tower Bridge.
Tower Bridge is the picture perfect crossing across the Thames that everyone has in their mind. A piece of perfect Victoriana. It is often mistakenly called London Bridge, due to the fact that it is the Capitals most distinctive landmark. But aside from all the Tourist photos it is a real and working bridge. It is the link across the Thames for the eastern part of the city. It flows directly south out of the great juncture of The Highway (to Docklands), Embankment (Running West through the city to Chelsea) and The Aldgate Triangle (all points to the North and East). It is London’s busiest river crossing.
It has actually got busier in the last 12 months due to the fact that it is falls just outside the Congestion Charge Zone. Congestion Charging is Ken Livingston’s (London’s Mayor) great experiment in user pays roads, charging 5 pounds to enter the central city by car. People who want to skirt the zone use Tower Bridge.
So early Friday morning, the Police closed Tower Bridge and established an extensive cordon around the crane. The fear was that Spiderman would either fall or leap and strike someone below. This caused miles of backlogs, verging on gridlock. As the Friday night commute took hold, the city was paralysed with the backflows into other parts of the city. The other river crossings were bumper to bumper, the city on the north bank was paralysed as the office workers pushed for buses and the residential streets on the South side were clogged as drivers tried rat runs to avoid the jams.
This went on till last evening, Wednesday, at 3.12pm when Spiderman descended to the cheers of his supporters. 6 days of traffic nightmares for the city. The cost of which are now being totted up. The cost to business in the city is being estimated at around £50 million. The cost of the police operation was £10,000 per day not including the opportunity cost of the loss of manpower for other activities. The hours lost to the average Londoner going about their daily lives probably runs into the hundreds of thousands.
These two protests are for the group Father 4 Justice. This is a group of men dedicated to Fathers rights as they feel that the family justice system is to heavily weighted to the mother. This is a group of men that have clubbed together their hurt, their pain and are protesting as what they see as a major injustice.
Spiderman, David Chick, is a case in point. Mr. Chick split with his partner and mother of his child 3 years ago, when the child was 10 months old. He continued to see his child till, as the relationship with his former partner denigrated, he says that he was denied access to his daughter. He claims that he had no recourse, as he had access rights, which were being denied him.
Due to the loss of his daughter Mr. Chick then spun into a depressive cycle. He gave up his job. When broke, alone and with no prospect of seeing his daughter again, he contemplated suicide.
Fathers 4 Justice says this is an all to common case. Men’s rights, they say, are overlooked due to the natural bias of the court system towards mothers. To often, men are denied access to their children in court, or by their former partners.
Fathers 4 Justice has a ground swell of support, even if the chaos that followed Mr. Chicks protest has dampened it. At the protest at the Royal Courts of Justice I stopped to talk to the Policeman patrolling the scene. They seemed very able spokesman for the cause, both being divorced, both seeing their children on and off due to the whims of their partners, they were wholeheartedly in support.
But it may be that now their voices are being heard. Fathers 4 Justice is starting to gain some heavyweight support. The most famous fathers rights campaigner, Sir Bob Geldof, is taking the issue and the Fathers 4 Justice concerns, to the Govt. Sir Bob’s interest in the issue is due to his long running custody battle with the mother of his children, the late Paula Yates.
But as a male issue, as a male right, as this is male hurt and pain being discussed, these are issues that are still viewed as abnormal. Society does not understand male hurt. It does not understand an alienated male. Males are not naturally the disenfranchised. People look away due to the oddity of situation. It is unnatural for a male to be powerless. For a man to feel hurt, alone, despondent, is unsettling for us all. Especially so here in Britain.
The British male is still closer to Stan Ogden than David Beckham. For example, the reaction to the Sensitive New Age Guy in Britain was an explosion of lads culture lead where lager, woman and bad behaviour where the norm. The Sun, The Sport, Page 3 Girls, 14 Pints a game of football and a curry. These are the staples of the average British male. All clichés and dreadful stereotypes, but close to the truth.
So to see a group of men, come forward in public and discuss their pain is refreshing. To see a group of men in Britain say we are hurt, rather than just say I’m OK, is heart-warming. I am sure in many cases Father 4 Justice and its members have been hard done in the courts.
It probably a small percentage compared to the number of fathers and husbands that simply walk out on their families. But I imagine that this is still a small percentage compared to those women that are beaten, raped, abused or killed by their partners. It is probably a small percentage compared to those children who are beaten, raped, abused or killed by their fathers
I feel real sympathy for the genuine cases that Father 4 Justice fight for. And I admire David Chick for staying atop a 100ft crane during the stormiest weekend of the winter so far. I even admire that he shut down the city for his own personal motives, but I cannot feel sympathy for men in general.

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