Feminist claims police arrested her for anti-trans posters
Women’s rights campaigner Jennifer Swayne was arrested for an alleged hate crime over the weekend, and had stickers and an academic book seized by police, after she plastered her home town with posters critical of the transgender movement.
Swayne told the Times that she was was detained for more than 12 hours by police in the Welsh county of Gwent after she put up homemade posters in the town of Newport with slogans such as “Woman = Adult Human Female,” “humans never change sex,” and “no men in women’s prisons.” The last slogan is apparently a reference to a controversial High Court ruling last year that cleared the way for transgender women – who are biologically male – to be housed alongside female inmates in UK prisons. The ruling even applies to those convicted of sexual offenses.
Swayne accused the police of acting “like the Stasi,” after they raided her house and seized more stickers and posters with similar anti-trans slogans. They also confiscated a book of essays critical of the transgender movement edited by feminist academic Dr. Heather Brunskell-Evans.
Gwent police said they received six complaints regarding her poster campaign, and described the messages on the posters as “offensive.” Swayne said that one of the arresting officers described one sticker in particular – which read “cervix – it’s a woman thang” – as “very hurtful.” She was arrested on suspicion of both vandalism and “displaying threatening or abusive writing likely to cause harassment.”
Swayne said she wasn’t told why her book was seized, and added that none of her posters even contained the word “trans.” She said that in her opinion, the police demonstrated a “very narrow, partisan view of what it is legitimate to have on your bookshelf. That is dangerous for liberal democracy.”
Her arrest comes amid a national debate in Britain over the boundaries between free speech and hate crimes. Last year, Home Secretary Priti Patel told the College of Policing to advise forces across the country to stop recording “non-crime hate incidents” as crimes, arguing that doing so has “a chilling effect on free speech and potentially stop people expressing views legally and legitimately,” according to a government source.
Patel’s letter was celebrated by Fair Cop, an organization that campaigns against the criminalization of speech. “This is a step in the right direction,” Fair Cop co-founder Harry Miller said at the time. “But the government should ditch the recording of non-hate crime incidents as they are fundamentally wrong and remove the presumption of innocence.”
Fair Cop has also publicized Swayne’s story, claiming that the behavior of Gwent police in her case amounts to “unlawful police interference” under the law.