They have already
sent Batman over the wall of Buckingham
Palace, pelted Tony Blair with purple
flour and scaled the heights of Tower
Now Fathers 4 Justice, the pressure
group notorious for its daredevil
stunts, is to export its unorthodox
approach to lobbying across the Atlantic.
The activists believe their stunts
will go down well in the US
Prominent members of the movement,
which campaigns for greater fathers'
rights in Britain's family courts,
are to advise their United States
counterparts on attention-grabbing
They claim that on a recent reconnoitre
of landmarks in New York, where they
intend to stage a protest, they were
followed by the FBI.
Matt O'Connor, the founder of Fathers
4 Justice, flew to Minnesota last
night and will officially launch the
American branch of the group next
week. The group estimates that 25
million American fathers face access
"We are planning a massive stunt
in New York which will catch everyone
by surprise," said Mr O'Connor,
38. "It will be more spectacular
than anything we've done in the UK
so far and if all goes well we will
hopefully be catapulted into infamy."
Mr O'Connor, a father of two from
Suffolk, said that New York's bridges
and tall buildings were among their
targets for a potential stunt. The
group has apparently considered using
the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles
as a platform for future campaigns.
Jolly Stanesby and Jason Hatch, two
members of the group, said that they
were tailed by up to eight FBI agents
during a recent trip to New York.
"Every time we turned a corner,
there was another shifty looking man
pretending not to notice us,"
said Mr Stanesby, 39. "At one
stage it was so obvious what was going
on that one of the agents came up
and introduced himself.
"He told us that we were considered
the biggest security threat in New
York at the moment - as if we were
The leader of the American campaign
said the militant tactics used so
effectively in Britain would have
to be toned down in the US. Jamil
Jabra, 48, who teaches information
technology at the University of Minnesota,
said: "The attitude towards security
in the US is very different, particularly
after September 11.
"We will try to maintain the
audacity of the stunts but they will
have to be tailored to a certain degree
to avoid people getting hurt. I admire
British members scaling the walls
of Buckingham Palace but if anyone
tried that at the White House, they
would be shot."
Since its inception in 2002, Fathers
4 Justice, which counts Sir Bob Geldof
as a staunch supporter, has campaigned
for an overhaul of Britain's family
law system, which it believes unfairly
favours mothers in custody issues.
The group, which has 12,000 British
members, has lobbied the Government
for equal access rights for fathers
separated from their children. It
has demanded new legislation that
would give a child the legal right
to see both parents if a relationship
Mr O'Connor believes that its use
of characters such as Batman and Spiderman
would chime with the American public.
"The superhero campaign should
work well in the States as it is the
original home of these characters,"
"The American legal system is
different to ours and we will be tailoring
the American Fathers 4 Justice to
reflect that, but the underlying principle
of equal rights for fathers is a global
US law varies from state to state,
but most family courts across America
favour awarding sole custody to one
parent. Standard visitation rights
for the parent without custody are
four days a month.
In 84 per cent of cases in America,
according to the Census Bureau, sole
custody of any children is awarded
to the mother. According to the US
Department of Health and Human Services,
however, children growing up without
a father are five times more likely
to commit suicide, nine times more
likely to drop out of school and 32
times more likely to run away from
Mr Jabra, who pays #650 a month in
child support for his four-year-old
son, wants American family law changed
to offer a more equal balance.
"At the moment, the standard
seems to be that mothers get custody
of children and fathers end up seeing
their kids every other weekend,"
"That is simply not satisfactory.
We will be pushing the Government
for equal rights for fathers and more
cases where joint custody is awarded."
Mr Jabra plans to approach Bruce Willis,
the actor, as a possible figurehead
for the campaign. He and his ex-wife,
Demi Moore, have shared joint custody
of their three daughters since they
divorced five years ago.
"Bruce is ideal for us as someone
who is very involved in his daughters'
lives," Mr Jabra said. "They
seem to have worked out an idyllic
situation where both parents have
an equal say."
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