Feminist protesters gathered outside Sheffield Town Hall today to ‘send a message’ to Sheffield United over the club allowing convicted rapist Ched Evans to train with the Blades.
Sheffield Feminist Network waved placards and chanted against the player including ‘show rape the red card’ and ‘say sorry or stay off the pitch’.
A passer-by shouted at the group at one point, before the protesters responded by chanting ‘rape apologist’ and a South Yorkshire PCSO intervened to defuse the situation.
Other chants included ‘don’t sign a rapist’ and ‘say no to Ched, she didn’t say yes’.
Organisers said they arranged the protest in secret due to fears for their own safety, after high profile Olympic athlete and Sheffield golden girl Jessica Ennis-Hill was subjected to abuse online.
Ben Miskell, a teacher in Sheffield, was one of the protesters, which included men as well as women. He said: “We have organised this protest today to send a clear message that Sheffield United needs to act and behave responsibly, which it’s not doing at the moment by backing an unrepentant and convicted rapist.
“We want to send quite a clear message to the football club but also to our civic leaders that we need to condemn Sheffield United.
“I started a petition that has got over 500 signatures on it because Sheffield United gets Government money for various schemes that it runs, for example the National Citizenship Service.
“I no longer think that it’s a fit and proper body to get that public funding.
“I think the vile abuse that Jessica Ennis has got is utterly despicable. But that’s not unusual in this campaign. The protest here has had to be organised in secrecy in fear of how some Ched Evans supporters will act and behave.
“It’s more like a protest you would imagine somewhere like Russia. That’s unacceptable.
“Sheffield United needs to put principles before profit and it needs to send a clear message to our community that it won’t re-sign or re-employ a convicted and unrepentant rapist.”
Judy Parfett, 46, from Nether Edge, said: “I feel very strongly about the issues of victim blaming around rape, that victims are often treated with suspicion and accused of being opportunists.
“I think it’s absolutely disgusting. The fact that he’s denying everything and shown absolutely no remorse. Footballers are role models for young people, there’s absolutely no getting away from that. They are even thinking of signing someone that’s a convicted rapist.”
South Yorkshire Police last night confirmed they were investigating ‘reports of abusive tweets’ against Jessica Ennis-Hill after she took her stance, saying role models should set a ‘good example’ to young people.
Her comments sparked massive debate on Twitter, with the majority of people, including United fans, backing her position.
But there were also some offensive and abusive comments towards the heptathlete and new mum.
One Twitter user’s vile abuse was so shocking it was reported to police. His account later appeared to have been removed.
Evans, who is appealing against his conviction, has been given the go-ahead to train at the club this week, causing TV presenter Charlie Webster, pop star Dave Berry and businesswoman Lindsay Graham to resign as patrons.
Sheffield United’s Community Foundation has also distanced itself from the row saying it would be ‘disappointing’ if a decision ‘it has no involvement in’ hampered its charity work.
The Star Editor’s opinon: No way back for Ched Evans