Melbourne protesters claim win over pro-family congress after exodus of speakers
A number of activist groups had formed a coalition “to beat back the far right” and forced the cancellation of a series of venues for the conference. They claim that public support is on their side and that no one wants to be associated with the event, including the two Catholic churches that had to be cancelled as venues. They also saw their success as essential due to similar 'far right' alignments in other parts of the world between the World Congress of Families and the United States, Russia, and eastern Europe.
All but one politician pulled out of attending or speaking at the conference.
Executive Director Larry Jacobs spoke to the accusations made in the media by noting that the congress received the Pax Urbis award for peace in 2012. This is an international award given by the international '100 Cities of Peace' group in support of the values behind the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
Speaking of how his own mother was a single mother, Jacobs went on to note that there were three things you could do to make sure that you have a 95 percent chance of not winding up in poverty: graduate from high school, get married, and have children. He also added that it should be done in precisely that order.
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Event organizer Babette Francis, from the Endeavour Forum, described the resistance to the event as “more like a war than just a political demonstration.” In addition to being followed from venue to venue, she was hounded on Facebook, Twitter, and email. She found that the opposition was relentless ever since the event was first announced.
Francis even tried booking the last two venues under the event name of “Babette's Feast,” but opposition groups soon discovered the booking when police descended to perform a risk assessment for the location due to the attendance of politicians.
She said the fierce opposition showed the event had struck a raw nerve. “There is something we are doing right to get so much opposition to what are basically sensible policies,” she said. In defending a position against abortion, she gave the example of not being able to support the retired and the elderly if you have a declining population due to a high abortion rate.
The conference itself was a success on the day with all 300 seats allocated weeks in advance, and an additional 600 attending via the webcast. The 44 protesters outside the conference were kept company by 50 police as well as event security. Two protesters were arrested.