Culture CHCHange has cancelled a protest after receiving online threats, apparently from the very people whose views they want to change.
A student-led protest fighting for rights and safety for women and LGBTQIA+ people has been called off after organisers received online threats apparently from boys at schools believed to be at the core of harassment.
Christchurch group Culture CHCHange had planned to hold a protest at a rugby match between Christchurch Boys’ High School (CBHS) and Christ’s College at CBHS on Thursday.
The two boys schools have come under scrutiny after accusations of sexual harassment by students in recent months.
Hours after posting information about the event, the group cancelled the protest as it said it received violent threats from students believed to be at the two schools the protest was aimed at.
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Members of the group recognised school colours in the biographies of the social media accounts the threats were coming from.
Some posters wrote they were from CBHS, or had photos of their rugby teams.
Student campaigners are fundraising so they can visit Parliament to urge MPs to focus the school curriculum on consent and intersectionality.
One administrator of the group, who wished to remain anonymous, said they had planned to head to the game with feminist and PRIDE signs because it was where students from the two schools who the group viewed as “the main problem” were gathered.
“It’s the two most problematic schools in Christchurch in one place, why not say something, why not let them know that we’re here and real,” they said.
The group had support from students at Christchurch Girls’ High School.
But it soon received about 20 to 30 threats which came “thick and fast”, and organisers cancelled the protest over concerns it could identify members of the group who want to remain anonymous for their safety.
“The overwhelming message was ‘if you turn up, we are going to let loose on you and it’ll be your fault’, ” the group’s administrator said.
“It just wasn’t going to be safe.”
They said they did not contact police as it was “a lot of effort for nothing in return”.
They had previously called police when they were harassed at their last event in Cathedral Square.
A man approached the group, verbally harassed them and became violent. Police took almost 20 minutes to arrive, the group told Stuff. They told the man to leave, but he later returned with a friend.
The administrator said it made them angry that people threatening them could get away with scaring the group into “shutting up”.
“It just proves our point if anything.”
The group did not feel a lot had changed since their initial protests a few months ago.
The group was initially set up by the three Christchurch Girls’ High School (CGHS) students who were behind chalking graffiti at CBHS in a bid to highlight their concerns and a protest at CGHS in March.
It has since grown and continues to fight for better education around sex, consent, and eradicating rape culture in schools.
Personal experience and stories they received since led them to believe Christ’s College and CBHS had the “most predominant” cultural issues with sexual harassment and homophobic behaviour.
“We can’t do anything without being harassed at some point.”
CBHS principal Nic Hill and Christ’s College were approached for comment on Wednesday evening.
Last month a CBHS student, Carlos Knight, addressed a room of 1400 students and staff, calling out fellow students over unacceptable catcalling, transphobia and homophobia in a speech hailed as “brave” and “inspirational”.
Hill praised Knight’s courage for taking a stand.
“It reflected messages from a number of boys who have come to me and want to get the message out there,” he said.
Culture CHCHange said it was still going ahead with its trip to parliament next month to present MPs with a model school curriculum focused on consent – something they view as fundamental to addressing sexual violence issues.
In the meantime, the group administrator said they were focusing on their PRIDE picnic event, celebrating PRIDE month, being held at the Armstrong Lawn area of the Botanic Gardens from 12pm on Sunday.