How social media fired up Alfie’s Army and turned parents’ battle with doctors into a worldwide campaign
- Facebook page grew from small support network to ‘army’ of 871,230 members
- They staged several protests outside Alder Hey Hopsital where Alfie was treated
- Got the support of Polish and Italian pro-life groups who held vigils abroad
- Hospital staff were told to hide their uniforms after threats to burn it down
Thousands of people from all over the world got behind the parents of Alfie Evans in the desperate battle to keep their toddler alive.
The ‘Alfie’s Army’ Facebook page grew from a small group of family and friends to a global movement accusing doctors and lawyers of abandoning the terminally ill toddler.
Alfie’s parents Thomas Evans, 21, and Kate James, 20, used the official Facebook page to share updates with their followers, which saw hundreds of them flock to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, where he was being treated.
Staff were told to hide their uniforms and ID badges in public after protests turned violent on April 23.
Alfie’s Army is pictured with his father Thomas Evans outside Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool
Alfie’s Army members are pictured trying to force their way into Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool while he was being treated there
A ‘sick and psychotic’ minority of supporters saw the hospital put on lockdown two days later after threats were made to burn down the hospital and rumours swirled about a planned raid.
Police officers were pictured guarding the entrances to the Merseyside hospital trust, as demonstrators set up shrines and a bouncy castle for children to play in outside.
An open letter was sent to the Liverpool trust’s 5,500 staff and Merseyside Police warned Alfie’s family their social media posts to their 871,000 followers were being monitored for malicious content.
A spokesman for the hospital said in a statement: ‘Following local reports of abuse towards NHS staff, we have provided our staff with advice regarding their own safety and security.
Protesters brandished banners, signs and balloons as they camped out outside the children’s hospital in Merseyside
Swarms of Alfie’s Army members were seen outside the hospital for days on end
Police officers were pictured guarding the entrances to the Merseyside hospital trust
‘Abuse of NHS staff or others whose role is to protect and care for others should not be tolerated.’
Chief inspector Chris Gibson added: ‘While many people have gathered to protest in a peaceful way, Merseyside Police is now investigating a small number of reports, some of which originate from social media, as well as instances of verbal abuse and acts of intimidation from those outside the hospital..
‘This is extremely unhelpful for all concerned and we are investigating further to establish the full circumstances.’
After an outpouring of support from the Pope, the Italian and Polish community rallied around Alfie’s Army, holding vigils in Krakow and Vatican City.
A candlelit ceremony was held in support of the youngster outside the British embassy in Poland and St Peter’s Square outside the Vatican.
Yesterday, four days after his life support was withdrawn, Thomas Evans spoke outside Alder Hey telling his followers he wanted to take Alfie home to die.
He instructed supporters to abandon their protests in the hope medics would let his son leave the hospital, but he died at 2.30am on Saturday.
Protesters headed his request but left their banners, flags and balloons as the family spent their final hours together.
Hundreds of protesters and members of the media remained outside the hospital for weeks
A candlelit vigil to Alfie is pictured near Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool last week
After a meeting with doctors Alfie’s mother and father asked for privacy in order to ‘form a relationship, build a bridge and walk across it’ to improve relations with the Merseyside hospital.
‘In Alfie’s interests we will work with his treating team on a plan that provides our boy with the dignity and comfort he needs,’ he said.
The comments marked a huge change in the couple’s attitude to medics and the way their ‘Army’ spoke about them.
Mr Evans had previously threatened a private prosecution for the hospital ‘conspiring to murder’ his 23-month-old son.
He also said doctors were treating him and Miss James like criminals.
As hundreds remained stationed outside Alder Hey, Alfie’s Army also called for people to sign an online petition that asked for the Queen to intervene in the youngster’s treatment.
A candlelit ceremony was held in support of the youngster outside the British embassy in Poland and St Peter’s Square (pictured) outside the Vatican
A vigil was held in support of the youngster outside the British embassy in Krakow, Poland
The petition, which surpassed its target of 150,000 names, asked Her Majesty to step in after the High Court judge ruled doctors could turn off Alfie’s life-support.
It was started by family friend Kayleigh Price on Change.org, begins: ‘We the undersigned humbly petition Your Majesty for protection of life and liberty of your 23-month-old subject Alfie Evans.’
It continued, making a number of claims about the treatment of the child.
‘The judges in Your Majesty’s Court have given orders: to kill Alfie on an appointed hour at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool by withdrawing his life support.
‘For the day and hour of that killing to be kept secret from the public to avoid any protest or hindrance; For Alfie to be detained in Alder Hey until his death – any attempt to release him to be resisted by force, and punished by imprisonment.’
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