Dads scale Sunderland's Queen Alexandra Bridge to stage Father's Day protest
Two fathers have scaled Sunderland's Queen Alexandra bridge this morning to stage a Father's Day protest.
The Real Fathers for Justice (RFFJ) group said two of its members climbed the bridge, where they unfurled a 25ft purple banner saying 'Happy Fatherless day' and attached it to the railing on the north side of the bridge.
RFFJ said the action, which began at around 4am, was to highlight failings in the family courts.
The men were identified as Danny, 42, who is from Wearside, and John, 34, from Gateshead.
Northumbria Police said it has requested the men come down from the bridge, which remains open to traffic and pedestrians, and that they will continue to monitor the situation.
Danny, who said he hasn't seen either of his two young children for more than four years, said: "My eldest son was born on Father's Day, today's protest is dedicated to him.
"I don't think most people have any idea of the affects of being unable to parent your children, knowing that despite them living only a few miles away I am no longer part of their lives.
"I am allowed only to send small gifts and cards four times a year, I have no idea if they receive them or not.
"It has been described as a living bereavement not seeing your children, it affects every part of your life and my mental health has suffered. It's like being shell shocked, your life loses meaning, you are overwhelmed with feelings of frustration and confusion.
"Now I can no longer afford to legal fees to pursue an appeal, what am I supposed to do? Give up altogether? I hope this protest reminds people that the secret family courts are robbing children of decent loving parents.
RFFJ spokesman and co-founder Leigh Davison added: "The pair have supplies for a long stay up there, they are safe and secure above the road. They have no intention to disrupt the public in their daily business in any way.
Danny and John joined us a year ago when Simon Anderton spent 11 days on the Tyne Bridge in a similar Father's Day protest, this is the first time either has been involved in a peaceful demonstration.
"Their cases are fairly typical of the hundreds we hear about every week, nothing has changed in family law despite many promises by politicians to reform the system over successive parliaments.
"These types of protest will continue and could well intensify, there are a new generation of younger fathers who are becoming aware of the kind of problems in family law we have been highlighting for over a decade.
"Although it's often fathers coming to us for support, but mothers are not immune to injustice and contact denial, nor are grandparents
"Hence this protest is definitely not for father's rights, nor for mother's rights - we support children's rights. The right to a loving and meaningful relationship with both parents following separation or divorce.
"If you are affected by contact denial or considering family court action, we offer free initial professional advice via email only. See our website realfathersforjustice.org for more details."
A Northumbria Police spokesman said: "At 5:21am on Sunday, June 19, police received a report that two men had climbed up the Queen Alexandra bridge in Sunderland. "Officers attended and made contact with the two men, who claim to be carrying out a protest on the bridge. "We have requested they come down and will continue to monitor the situation. "The bridge remains open for traffic and pedestrians at this time."