Friday, December 11, 2009

In Ohio ~ Judge gives props—and a fine to superhero protesters

Published: Wednesday, December 9, 2009 7:32 PM EST

By Steph Greegor

Steve McIntosh said the protest staged by Paul Fisher of Columbus and Donald Tenn of Sacramento, Calif., may indeed have been effective. But it was also illegal—and expensive.

A year ago, Fisher and Tenn—dressed as Spider-Man and Superman—climbed a 200-foot crane sitting at a construction site near Ohio Stadium and hung a massive “Stop the war on fatherhood” banner as 100,000 people streamed by on their way to OhioState’s football game against Minnesota.

The dangerous duo recently pleaded guilty to criminal damaging in front of McIntosh, a FranklinCounty common pleas court judge.

The protest may have been “effective in educating people,” said McIntosh. But he quickly added, “Where I had a real problem was that the company they inconvenienced had absolutely nothing to do with their cause.”

As part of their plea agreement, Fisher and Tenn must pay the contractor who was renting the crane $5,500 in restitution—an amount equal to the crane’s rental fee, plus the cost to have the crane they climbed inspected. McIntosh suspended a 90-day jail sentence and placed both men on probation for one year.

The nonprofit organization both men are associated with, Fathers 4 Justice, began in 2004 as an advocacy group for better treatment of fathers within the family court system. It doesn’t, however, endorse illegal demonstrations such as the one performed by Tenn and Fisher, said Brian Holladay, Ohio’s state coordinator for Fathers 4 Justice.

“We can’t even say we approve or disapprove or we like or dislike it,” he said.”

Despite that, Holladay can’t deny that the incident created a buzz for his organization.

“It makes an impact. It’s definitely raising public awareness because it gets people excited—it gets them involved,” Holladay said.

The men said they were trying to do exactly that. But awareness doesn’t necessarily equate to change.
“The only people who could make changes would be the legislature or the judges who handle visitation issues,” said McIntosh. “You can protest and there are means of protesting—we have people in front of the courthouse regularly exercising their First Amendment rights—I don’t know there’s any particular way of doing it. Could they have accomplished the same thing by walking around with the banner instead? I don’t know.”

“In this country, many changes have come from protest,” said McIntosh. “But I think it’s rare a single protest causes change.”

Fisher and Tenn both say they have suffered at the hands of a family court system that often favors the mother over the father when it comes to visitation rights. Tenn, president of the U.S. chapter of Fathers 4 Justice, said he hasn’t seen his 6-year-old daughter, Madison, since 2007, after his ex-wife filed a restraining order against him. Fisher has been fighting for more than his allotted four-days-a-month visitation time with his daughter, Demetra, 7.

Fathers 4 Justice descend on Canterbury for Christmas demonstration

Fathers 4 Justice campaigners demo in Canterbury 2004

Fathers 4 Justice campaigners pictured on a previous demonstration in Canterbury in 2004.

Campaigners from Fathers 4 Justice will descend on Canterbury on Saturday for a special Christmas demonstration.

The group, known for a series of high-profile stunts, will dress as Santa Claus and assemble in the city's Buttermarket Sqaure with banners, loud horns and megaphones.

They plan to take their message to the Cathedral in the hope the church will do more to recognise the role of the father in the family.

A statement issued by members last month read: "Dressed in Santa outfits, we will yet again attempt to get our message across to the church who, like this arrogant Labour government, have ignored the plight of fathers for years.

"We have decided to take the campaign back to the church as it and its synod have not debated family breakdown since 1991.

"The Church of England and its representatives must stop ignoring the consequences of this issue.

"To do this, we would like as many Kent dads as possible to attend dressed in Santa outfits."

Among them will be Darren Ash from Herne Bay, who has been fighting for access to his daughter for more than a decade after his relationship with her mother ended amicably.

Darren Ash from Herne Bay tells Adam Williams about the fight to see his daughter Click here for textual description.

Fathers 4 Justice campaigner Darren Ash from Herne Bay

But, despite securing four court orders granting him access and spending £7,000 in legal fees, Darren, 34, from Beltinge (pictured left) has only been allowed one overnight stay.

He said: "Family laws are confusing.

"The court orders have been made and then they have been broken by the mother and the courts do nothing whatsoever to enforce them.

"Any other court order being broken would end up in someone either being arrested or cautioned."

The group will assemble in Buttermarket Square between 10am and 2pm on Saturday.

See the location on Google Earth here,1.08309&spn=0.006711,0.013132&z=15&key=ABQIAAAAnd1R8Vzhw-Nf-bOST_G0dxQXmapB6V2ITOvJVkbrDaA6acGT_RSRrdR0o7q_k6fEXuQWdl5l4q8oQQ&mapclient=jsapi&oi=map_misc&ct=api_logo

The work of Fathers 4 Justice and the Pain of Fathers ~ Activism in the UK

Equal and Shared Parenting ~ The Movie