Anti-vaxxers 'disrupt' West Sussex hospital charity fundraiser
'Intimidating' anti-vaxxers descended on Chichester's Market Cross at the weekend, disrupting the fundraising efforts of a hospital charity.
With a combination of sunny weather and a busy city centre on Saturday (September 18) volunteers from Chichester Hospital Radio had hoped for a successful day of fundraising for the NHS charity but following the arrival of a group of anti-vaccine protesters, the event did not run as planned.
Peter Edgeler is one of the presenters at Chichester Hospital Radio and was based at the Cross while his colleagues collected donations from the streets.
"As a charity that operates in support of the NHS in general and St Richard’s Hospital in particular it would be preposterous to suggest Chichester Hospital Radio would support a group that peddles the misinformation they do as fact whilst claiming their rights and freedoms without accepting their responsibilities to their fellow citizens," he said.
"We have done this for a number of years — through rainstorms, heat and pestilence — and we were lucky enough to get a day allocated [for fundraising in the city centre].
"We were fundraising for the hospital radio service because it is run by a charitable trust for the benefit of patients, staff and visitors."
The charity's volunteers arrived at 9am after being handed a license from Chichester District Council but by 1pm another group began congregating and disrupting the fundraiser.
One member of the anti-vax group was dressed in a black coat, black hoodie and black mask and Peter said the group had at times been intimidating.
"He was an individual who obviously didn't want to be identified. The first thing he said was 'you better move because we are going to have a demonstration'. I replied, 'We are licensed to be here for a street collection, we are not moving'.
"I don't think his interpersonal skills were very good as he didn't approach us in the friendliest way."
Over the next 45 minutes the group began to grow in numbers, Peter said, with some people armed with megaphones and placards which read 'can you trust the media?' and 'can you be sure the vaccine is 100 per cent safe?'
"Nobody has claimed the vaccine is 100 per cent safe, but it's a damn site safer than Covid," he added.
Peter went on to describe a 'with us or against us' mentality from the members and protesters and said he was accused of being 'paid-off' to stand at the Cross on that day, despite having volunteered at the station for nearly 30 years.
Chichester Hospital Radio signage and collection buckets were daubed in anti-vax stickers, a move which backfired as some protesters were seen putting in donations.
Despite that, just over £400 was raised for the charity which is 'less than we would have expected on a sunny day'.
Peter made it clear that neither Chichester Hospital Radio as an organisation nor any volunteers that were present were involved the protest that took place.
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