A protest took place outside the Guardian and Observer offices on Thursday, at which over 100 transgender people and cisgender allies gathered to demand an apology from its owners over the publication of a transphobic article by Julie Burchill.

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) is now to launch an inquiry into the Observer’s decision to print last Sunday’s article. Martha Dunkley, from the group TransLondon, said: “The Burchill piece was a deliberate baiting. It was straight forward, transphobic hate speech for which, had she been targeting another group, she would have been arrested. It threw us back into the days when we could be the objects of violence and ridicule with impunity.”

Ahead of the protest, organiser, Kai Weston, said: ”The reasons for this protest, whilst triggered by Burchill’s recent transphobic article in the Observer form part of a wider picture in which trans people are frequently seen as legitimate targets by media outlets. All too often we see trans people being used a cheap comic devices, or having their identities dragged through the papers.

“For those within society who have never had extended interaction with a trans person, the media may form their sole source of information. Given that violence and discrimination against the trans community is rife within society, I feel let down when a supposedly progressive paper publishes a piece which amounts to nothing more than an outright transphobic hate speech.

Kai Weston added: “Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the Guardian Media Group has published a transphobic article, and on each occasion the issue has been addressed with a rebuttal from a trans commentator, and then swiftly brushed beneath the carpet.

“What we are seeking to achieve in protesting outside their offices is to ensure that the editors take the issue of transphobia as seriously as they would any other form of prejudice, and to make a commitment to keeping transphobic articles out of their publications.”

Liberal Democrat International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone called for the editor of the Observer and columnist Julie Burchill to be sacked over her article.

Writing in the Guardian, trans rights activist Roz Kaveney accused Burchill of “bullying the trans community” and of using “hate speech”.

Charity Galop criticised Burchill for propagating a society that accepts hate crimes directed at trans people.

Supporters of the protest have also been tweeting the hashtag #TransSpring.

The editor of the Observer, John Mulholland, withdrew Burchill’s column and apologised for the upset that it caused on Monday.