Why we’re marching on Mayday
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
On Saturday 1 May, tens of thousands of people are expected to take to the streets in 40 different locations across the UK. Why? To stop the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is a huge, 300-page piece of proposed law that seeks to increase police powers in terrifying ways.
If this police powers bill becomes law, we will see even more police violence – against people who speak up against injustice, and specifically against Black, Muslim and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
What is in the bill that’s sparked all of these protests?
This proposed laws will give police unprecedented powers to use against the public. Police are already drunk on the powers that they have – if they are given more, it will only lead to more violence.
Here are the specific parts of the bill we are most concerned by:
Protest (the right to assemble) is a human right
You never know when you might need to take to the streets to speak up against injustice, but you have a right to do it. The police powers bill will try to shut down our ability to do that, police will have the power to seriously restrict and criminalise protest by:
- Imposing a start and finish time
- Setting noise limits
- Applying rules of a demonstration by just one person
- If someone fails to follow police directions, they could be fined up to £2,500.
- Police will be able to arrest people at protests without warning. Right now, police need to prove to protesters that they knew they had been told to move on before they can make arrests. The bill gives the police the right to arrest someone where they “ought to have known” a condition existed.
- The proposed law includes an offence of “intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance” – and language in the bill suggests that if someone ‘annoys’ a police officer, they could be charged. The language and the scope of powers given to senior officers and to the Home Secretary through this Bill are open for abuse.
- The bill will seek to lock up protest organisers for longer sentences – increasing the maximum sentence from 3 months to 11 months imprisonment. These changes risk plunging people further into the criminal justice system, simply for exercising their democratic right.
- Trespass is currently a civil law offence and police have no powers to arrest offenders. The police powers bill makes it a criminal law and would empower police to arrest any person and seize any vehicles or property. This impacts the right to protest overnight or set up protest camps. This also has a huge impact on Gypsa, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities – even the police don’t want this.
The police already abuse the powers they have – and shouldn’t be given more. The violent policing of the Sarah Everard vigil, the reckless brutality of police against protestors in Bristol and London (including police pretending to be postmen to gain entry to a protestor’s house, handcuffing her while half-naked), the use of mobile fingerprinting technology at protests to harvest public biometric data, and the £10,000 fine given to a nurse protesting the 1% NHS pay rise are very recent examples of this.
If the police are handed more powers, we’re about to see more terrifying violence against people who are courageous enough to speak out against injustice.
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) rights
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities are among the most persecuted and marginalised in the UK. The police powers bill wants to criminalise their existence. This will be done by criminalising ‘unauthorised encampments’ and established trespass – effectively criminalising GRT communities’ way of life. The proposals in the Bill are extremely discriminatory:
- The Bill will create a new offence of “residing on land without consent in or with a vehicle”. It is undoubtable that these powers will be used to target GRT communities – whose vehicles include homes, and who may end up homeless. It’s vital to recognise this in the context of a country that has a huge shortage of sites for GRT communities to reside on.
- If a person or family is removed from an area, they are banned from returning for 12 months. A person who returns will face harsh criminal punishments, including up to 3 months in jail or a fine of up to £2,500.
GRT communities anticipate even more violent evictions than they already face if this police powers bill goes through. As GRT socialists have said: “this bill has rubber stamped the treatment we receive, such as being racially stereotyped, segregated from public spaces and businesses and economically excluded”.
Stop and Search
The proposal to create a new civil order, the Serious Violence Reduction Order (SVRO), will hand police an extraordinary power to stop and search a person who has previously been convicted of a weapons offence at any time, in any place, completely free of suspicion. This will hand the police a highly oppressive tool, unlike anything seen before, which will disproportionately impact Black men. Already, Black people are 8.9 times more likely to be subject to a stop and search than white people, and non-Black people of colour 4.1 times more likely.
- Stop and search is already a discriminatory and invasive police practice, but right now, a stop and search can only be lawfully exercised during a set timed period and over a defined geographic location. Previous convictions have never been used as a grounds to stop and search someone. The current time period for suspicionless stop and search is 24 hours. SVROs will be implemented for up to 24 months at a time – and can be renewed indefinitely.
- SVROs can be handed to someone who has never handled a weapon, but “ought to have known” another person they were with at the time, did.
- This means police will be given extraordinary powers to stop and search someone anywhere, at any time, despite no evidence of a person ever handling a weapon before.
- If someone resists an SVRO – for example, by failing to do anything required, or obstructing a police officer in the exercise of it – they could be put in prison for up to two years, or receive a fine. Human Rights organisation Liberty is concerned that “this could be interpreted broadly, to criminalise people requesting that police provide the legal authority for subjecting them to a stop and search or failing to provide an answer to a question put by a police officer”. Liberty also say that “making a refusal to co-operate a criminal offence may lead to people being fined or criminalised in circumstances where they do not understand the instructions given by a police officer and therefore fail to comply. This may also detrimentally impact disabled people or people with mental health needs, some of whom may find it difficult to follow directions.”
Other provisions in the Bill will see invasive surveillance of young people and children, similar to the widely-condemned PREVENT strategy, and a mandate for controversial children’s prisons (known euphemistically as ‘secure schools’) to be run for charitable benefit.
The Bill has also opened the gateway for retrogressive policies like Diane Johnson MP’s tabled amendments on sex work, which will push sex workers into dangerous working conditions by.
What does Kill The Bill mean?
We believe that the police powers bill should be scrapped entirely. It is authoritarian in tone and in nature, and will lead to more abuse of police powers. All of the above affects all of us, and it will take a mass movement to force it to be thrown out of parliament.
Kill The Bill weekend of action
Thursday, April 1, 2021
Over the past two weeks we have seen the explosion of a national movement against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. People across the UK have taken to the streets to say: no more police powers – the Police Crackdown Bill must be stopped. In this short space of time, we have gained some big wins, including forcing the government to delay the Bill through Parliament, instead of quietly rushing it through like they had originally planned to do.
Amazingly, and unsurprisingly, this movement has rapidly grown way beyond us.
This weekend, people across the UK are once again taking to the streets to demand that the government #KillTheBill. There have been demos called across the country throughout the weekend including one in London on Saturday, April 3rd.
We are calling for a National Day of Action on Sunday, April 4th: this is not a demonstration, but rather a series of small events and actions you can take from home. There is more information on this below.
We know that not everyone can, or wants to, go to demonstrations. The actions below contribute to the movement and can be done from home. Our strength is in our numbers, and it is only through a national mass mobilisation that we will defeat the police powers bill. We already know the police are drunk on power, and they cannot be given more.
Although we are not leading on any demonstrations this weekend, we encourage those that do go out to do so safely: please follow COVID-safe protocols and check out Green and Black Cross’ website for advice on your rights when protesting. Remember to not go to or leave a demonstration alone, and if asked to do anything by a police officer, always ask: under what power?
This is a national movement and one that we are proud to be a part of. We have spent the past week reaching out to and organising with groups affected by the police powers bill – you can read our collective statement of solidarity here. This Bill affects communities differently, but is bad for all of us: it threatens our right to work, assemble, protest, and travel. This also means that we will need all of us to defeat it, this movement leaves no one behind.
Many of you have sent us posters, designs and more support over the last few weeks. We’re now putting these to use as part of our National Day of Action on 4th April 2021.
What can you do on 4th April?
- Use the resources available here to let your community know that you are part of the #KillTheBIll movement.
- Put a poster up in your window
- Flyer outside a busy spot (wearing masks and observing social distancing)
- Post flyers through all your neighbour’s letterboxes
- Put up posters in your community
- Share your posters online using the hashtag #KillTheBill
- Set aside some time to read more about the Policing, Crime Sentencing and Courts bill.
Part of the government’s strategy is to let time pass in the hopes that we forget about the bill. We will not let this happen. We are asking that everyone, in their cities, towns, and villages call their local radio stations to say: do not give more powers to the police.
- You can find your local digital radio station here.
- Here are some talking points:
- The police are drunk on power and should not be given more
- You are concerned about the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that is moving through parliament, and want it to be scrapped entirely.
- The events at the Clapham vigil and at demonstrations over the last few weeks are a dangerous indication of what the future of protest will look like if the police powers bill moves through parliament.
- The police powers bill will give police increased power to threaten, intimidate and use violence against Gypsy and Traveller communities – including give them permission to seize their property (which includes homes)
- The police powers bill will increase stop and search powers, which already discriminate against marginalised communities
We are letting the government know: we will make this bill unenforceable in the streets. This is just the beginning. We will #KillTheBill.
Sisters Uncut Statement on Bristol – We Will Not Be Divided
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
It feels like every day a new story about police violence comes to light. Over the past week, we’ve seen a police officer walk free after being caught on camera assaulting a woman, using tactics that he had learned on the job to force her to the ground, screaming that she was a ‘fucking slag’ when she managed to escape. In the 6 years between 2012 and 2018 there were 594 complaints of sexual violence against Met police employees, of which only 119 were upheld. We know that only a fraction of incidents of sexual violence are ever reported to the police, so it’s safe to assume that the true number is far, far higher. With the passing of the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act earlier this month, the state authorised police officers to deceive women into sexual relationships, and even into pregnancy. The police are the perpetrators.
The police already have a monopoly on violence and the Police Crackdown Bill will only entrench this further. Protests in Bristol over the weekend were described in national newspapers as having ‘turned violent’, yet we know that it was protesters, not police, who bore the brunt of that violence. Police tactics, including kettling, the use of batons, and dispersal techniques such as horse charges, are violent in both intent and effect. Whether they are manhandling protesters at Saturday’s vigil in memory of Sarah Everard, aggressively pursuing young Black women for their details, or forcefully arresting protestors for shaking their heads at officers, as we saw last weekend at Bristol, it is clear that it is the police who turn protest into violence.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will enable the police to decide where, when and how citizens are allowed to travel, congregate, protest, and work. Sentences of up to 10 years are laid down for anything from a protest to a house party or even just a lone individual causing ‘serious annoyance’. This bill attacks all communities, and it is all of us that must resist.
31 years ago, a mass movement formed in opposition to Thatcher’s poll tax, a flat tax that would have punished the poorest in society, and took to the streets to defeat a bill that could not be defeated in parliament. During the protests, mounted police and police vans charged through crowds of people, who were beaten with batons, but politicians and the media drew a contrast between a moral majority and a small number of violent protesters. The stigmatisation of protesters is a tactic of division that we won’t stand for. It is a fearful response by a state that thrives on division and scarcity. While the police can use violence against people with impunity, protesters are condemned for ‘violent’ damage to property.
We applaud all those who went out this weekend, and took to the streets to defend the right to a life free of state violence. The police use violence to divide us, but we will not be divided. The conservative media attempts to paint a moral hierarchy, but we will not be forced apart. We know that this bill can be defeated, and we are coming together in a coalition of solidarity to do just that. We will not be silenced. We will kill the bill!
8M Feminista Latinx
Anarchist Communist Group
Black Lives Matter UK
Community Action on Prison Expansion (CAPE)
Disabled People Against Cuts
Docs Not Cops
Jewish Solidarity Action
Kurdistan Solidarity Network
Minority Protection Initiative
No More Exclusions
Prisoner Solidarity Network
Remember & Resist
Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century
Sisters of Frida
SOAS Detainee Support
United Families and Friends Campaign
Women Defend Rojava
Why we gathered at Clapham Common, even when we were told not to
Sunday, March 14, 2021
We gathered at Clapham Common on Friday, because of our grief and anger at the senseless murder of Sarah Everard. We gathered because after Sarah’s disappearance, the police told women that they should stay at home after dark to avoid being attacked. This isn’t the first time.
Almost 50 years ago, when another murderer the Yorkshire Ripper was attacking women, the police said the only way for women to remain safe is to stay at home. Then, as now, women said NO. We will not be curfewed. Time and again the police have attempted to control us and to divide us by playing in good women and bad women narratives. But we demand the right not only to survive but to thrive. And that means going where we want, when we want. We don’t care if you’re out at night partying, drinking, or to see your friends, or sex working, or if you’re gender non-conforming, no one deserves to die for being out at night-time.
Many of us know that surviving and thriving means disobeying orders and that’s why so many of us are here tonight. The police have tried and tried to silence and repress us. A sickening response when the man who has been charged with her murder is a metropolitan police officer. A man who days earlier was reported for indecent exposure and was allowed to continue his duties. And when we say we want to attend a vigil to remember Sarah Everard, when we want to resist a curfew that stops us having a full life, the police have the nerve to threaten us and intimidate us. No.
From April 2015 to April 2018, there were almost 700 reports of domestic abuse against police officers. In the 6 years from 2012-18 there were 1,500 accusations of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, exploitation of crime victims and child abuse resulting in only 197 officers being sacked. From 2015-17, 415 referrals were made for officers that had abused their position to sexually assault someone, with domestic and sexual violence victims, sex workers and drug users being most at risk of being abused by an on-duty police officer. And by the way that is no accident, abusers always target those who they think no one will believe them. Since 1990 there have been over 1,500 deaths in custody or following police contact but no officer has ever been held accountable. The police are allowed to abuse their partners, sexually assault crime victims and even kill with almost no accountability. Why was the man who has been charged with killing Sarah Everard not held accountable for indecent assault? How many other incidents have the police turned a blind eye to? How many people, knowing that nothing will be done, have not even made a complaint against a police officer that has abused them.
The police tell us that we will only be safe if we stay at home and get more bobbies on our streets. But perpetrators are in our homes, they are on the streets and they are the metropolitan police. We are the only route to safety. A united movement of all those impacted by gender violence and we are most at risk of gendered violence when we are
We are women, when we are poor, when we are black or brown, when we are disabled when we are trans and when we are migrants. The cops thought they could threaten us, they thought they could intimidate us they thought they could stop us. But we know that the route towards endings violence means disobeying orders. These streets are our streets.
No police in our women’s building
Monday, November 30, 2020
The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) plans to turn the Women’s centre on the Holloway Prison Site into a probation centre, instead of a place for community and transformation.
Members of Sisters Uncut have sprayed the following stencils in key areas around Islington:
MOPAC = police
Policing =/= community healing
We want community not criminalisation
No police in our women’s building*
We want members of the local community to know about Peabody Housing Association’s relationship with policing institutions. We demand a Women’s Building that works in the interests of us all, without relying on the criminal justice system – which often creates the problems that the building will aim to rectify. We do not want a prison under another name.
MOPAC is the body that is responsible for overseeing the Metropolitan Police. They fund a range of services, including Domestic Violence services, which in turn have to prove some compliance with MOPAC’s methods and aims. MOPAC’s involvement in the Women’s Building (WB) should be considered a part of the Criminal Justice System’s move towards ‘gender responsive policing’. It is important to note how, over the last decade, domestic violence services and shelters have become more and more embedded in the state’s apparatus. Plans for a women’s building in Holloway are thus linked to government plans to expand the criminal justice system as they move towards embedding prisons and probation centres in our communities.
Further expanding the criminal justice system is not an adequate response to domestic violence; the more police are involved in instances of domestic violence, the more likely it is that survivors or other vulnerable people end up in prison, and communities will continue to be disrupted and fragmented. Police and prisons don’t keep the most systematically vulnerable survivors safe; many cannot rely on the police for fear of deportation or further brutality. The reduction in access to domestic violence services due to a decade of austerity means many do not have a safe place or safety net to fall back on and cannot escape violent situations.
Prisons and probation centres do next to nothing to address the root causes of domestic violence, evidenced by the fact that the prison population in England has more than tripled since 1950, while the number of women murdered by a current or former partner (2-3 every week) remains the same. The majority of people in women’s prisons report experiencing domestic violence at some point in their life.
A probation centre is a criminal justice service that keeps track of the formerly incarcerated, and assists with communication with criminal courts and sentencing duties. This is yet another way that the criminal justice system cements itself in the lives of those currently and formerly imprisoned. We do not believe that embedding policing, prisons and the CJS into the lives of survivors is an effective way of combating gendered violence. In fact, these systems aid and perpetuate the very cycles of violence they claim to break. Though their stated aim may be to prevent reoffending, their true purpose is to entrench state surveillance in the lives of those who have already been negatively impacted by imprisonment, setting near impossible standards and codes of behaviour that they must adhere to. Probation centres are not spaces for transformative justice. Probation centres are not spaces of support. They continue the control and coercion of formerly incarcerated people.
Women and people of marginalised genders who have been through and live under the threat of the criminal justice system need financial, emotional and mental health support, fully funded community resources, and a space to understand their experiences of trauma and gendered violence. This is what the Women’s Build should be: a place of refuge. We need processes of transformative justice that are community-led, separate from the Criminal Justice System, that seek non-punitive approaches to rectifying harm. When we say we want community and not criminalisation, we mean we have a vision of a world without policing and prisons, where every person has their needs met and is able to access the resources needed to live a full and dignified life. We mean community services run from the ground up with no connections to courts, police and prisons.
The Criminal Justice System perpetrates violence and so it cannot be the solution. It locks survivors into a vicious cycle of poverty, precarious housing and employment, and vulnerability to further abuse. The community of Holloway were promised a space where women could come together, provide support and solidarity for one another, and heal. Instead, they have been lied to and misled by Peabody Housing Association and MOPAC. We demand more: the immediate severing of ties between Peabody Housing Association and MOPAC, as well as evidence that Peabody understands the community’s visions for the Women’s Building, and commitments to put that vision into practice.
* ‘Women’s Building’ is the language used by Islington Council. We will fight for a building and services that are available to all non-binary, gender non-conforming people and women and that the name is changed to reflect that.
A decade of austerity
Monday, December 2, 2019
As the election looms, we want to draw attention to this moment and what it means to us. Deaths from domestic violence have reached a 5-year high with 173 people killed in 2018 – up from 32 in 2017. 3 people a week are now killed by a partner, ex-partner or family member. Spending on domestic violence refuges has been cut by nearly a quarter (24%) since 2010.
Things are getting worse. We are a group that was born from austerity, born from a desire to resist cuts because we understand that cuts kill. We prioritise the lives of survivors of domestic, sexual, and state violence because they are overlooked by the mainstream: they are killed silently and their stories unheeded. We are living in a state of emergency and a decade of austerity has only exacerbated these dire conditions. We want you to remember the women who have died because of the state’s negligence. We want you to learn how many domestic and sexual violence services were forced to close in the last 10 years. We want this information to stay with you, we want to make it impossible to look away.
Austerity is a regime of devastating cuts to public services, resources and welfare programmes that has systematically ruined the lives of survivors and lessened their ability to escape the violence they experience. Austerity makes our lives miserable. We know that any survivor needs well-funded, free and accessible services that can provide them with the emotional and financial support they need to escape violent situations.
We want to build a world where all kinds of harm are addressed using the principles of transformative justice. Transformative justice holds that instead of relying on the police, prisons, courts and the ‘justice’ system, individuals can be held to account by their communities instead of disappeared by the state. Transformative justice calls on us to build a world where the designation ‘criminal’ becomes impossible. That means free education, free social housing, abolishing the prison industrial complex, fully funded mental health services, an end to racism, sexism, homophobia, an end to capitalism.
In the short term, we know that survivors need access to services that shelters provide without fear of deportation or imprisonment. The Conservative and coalition governments have systematically made this harder. The roll out of Universal Credit under the Tories means that benefits are now paid to the highest earner in a household, straight into the hands of abusers. This means many women are economically trapped in abusive situations. Not only have the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats cut funding for a majority of domestic violence shelters, Theresa May used the language of empowerment to propose increased police powers in instances of domestic violence. This ‘tough on crime’ approach does nothing to improve the lives of survivors. Survivors do not need perpetrators to go to jail, they need to be provided with routes to safety. They need shelters. They need trauma-based therapeutic services. For those women on the breadline, in the queue for jobseekers allowance, who fear their partners, Sisters Uncut sees you, stands with you and is fighting to build the world you deserve.
We believe that feminism is about making the world more liveable for the most oppressed – it is a tool we use to fight back against the government’s attempts to silence survivors. We are abolitionists. We do not believe that our freedom can be granted by the state or that the state has the capacity to grapple with our long-term demands. We want the abolition of all of the structures that put us at risk and increase our proximity to violence. But we know the difference between 5 more years of austerity, increased police presence in the lives of survivors and increased surveillance, and a promise to fund programmes for social care, education and housing.
We do not believe in political parties. We believe that our choice in this moment is simple: more death or less death. We implore you to think about this fact and –if you are choosing to take part in electoral politics – to make sure you vote with this simple choice in mind. Our immediate aim is to protect domestic violence shelters and to extend their services to all those who need them. We know that regardless of the outcome of this election, we will be fighting the government on their failure to protect survivors. We know that fight will be easier under a government that promises to roll back the devastating consequences of austerity.
Do you care about women and non-binary people fleeing domestic violence? Do you think that they should have somewhere to go that doesn’t interrogate, criminalise or deport them? Then join us. Come to a local meeting, get skilled up, and learn how you can contribute to our fight.
Why we plastered our demands on the fence of Holloway Prison
Friday, October 11, 2019
The death of a newborn baby in HMP Bronzefield just two weeks ago reveals the violence of the prison industrial complex. An incarcerated woman was left to deliver the baby with no pain relief or medical assistance overnight. This horrific story is just one of countless examples of the criminal justice system’s structural brutality. These incidents happen in secret, out of the public eye, because so often women in prison aren’t deemed worthy of our care and protection.
Holloway Prison has been the site of similar state violence for centuries. The prison population is overwhelmingly made up of people experiencing mental health problems, those who have experienced sexual violence, and people who have grown up in care. Sarah Reed, a 32-year-old working-class black woman with mental health support needs, died in Holloway Prison in January 2016 after a long journey of state-inflicted violence. Instead of receiving the mental health support she needed after losing her child, Sarah was subjected to abuse time and time again. The multiple instances of violence perpetrated against Sarah included an assault by an officer of the Metropolitan Police, which led to further deterioration of her mental health due to the trauma, and an attempted rape while she was later detained in a psychiatric unit under the Mental Health Act. When she died, she had been in HMP Holloway on remand for more than three months. Sarah’s story is one of many: too many to name.
When Holloway Prison first closed in 2016, many of the women inside were transferred to overcrowded facilities outside of London, further isolating them from their support networks, family and resources. The violence that took place on the site of Holloway Prison remains unhealed. Prisons do nothing to solve social problems; they are simply a management method for filtering out the ‘undesirables’ from our society. We know that they are rife with abuse, exploitation and mistreatment. We also know that once inside the prison system, chances of successful ‘rehabilitation’ for the poorest and most marginalised women is next to none. Sisters Uncut believe that nobody deserves to suffer silently as a result of state violence. We seek to expose violence, to bring it into the public eye, in order to demonstrate that the way our society functions and the way the state allocates funds and resources is fundamentally racist and sexist.
The fight to reclaim Holloway
We occupied the site of Holloway Prison in 2017, hosting a week-long community festival in the visitor centre. We wanted to demonstrate that the land could be transformed into a space of healing and safety. We demanded the use of the principles of transformative justice as an alternative to the carceral state.
Our original demands, that the site be used for social housing and the construction of a women’s building, were initially agreed to by the council. However, these promises have been threatened by the developers’ cooperation with the police. Peabody Trust, the housing association which bought the site in March this year, is working with the Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime (MOPAC) to finance and direct the construction of the site. Sisters Uncut asserts that this relationship poisons the potential for creating a space committed to transformative justice and addressing the harms of the criminal justice system.
Yesterday, we took action by plastering the wall around the site of Holloway Prison to reaffirm demands that the land be reclaimed for social housing and the construction of a ‘women’s building’ committed to addressing the harms and violence of the criminal justice system.
We pasted shortened versions of our demands on the walls of Holloway Prison.
In full, our demands are:
1. 100% of housing on the site must be at social rent.
2. 100% of housing on the site must be fully accessible, including but not limited to wheelchair accessibility, hearing loops, translation services and gender-neutral toilets. There should be a separate budget for any accessibility requirements that may arise.
3. The housing on this site should be prioritised for formerly incarcerated people and those impacted by domestic, sexual and state violence.
4. The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) should not use the money it gains from the sale of Holloway to build more prisons. Prisons are racist and expensive; they are places of suffering and state violence.
5. Peabody should centre survivors of domestic, sexual and state violence in the decision-making and day-to-day operations of the women’s building. Survivors should be central to the creation of shared values that define the building’s purpose and operation.
6. The so-called ‘women’s building’ must:
- be inclusive of all women (trans and cis), intersex and non-binary people.
- be a full, dedicated building as opposed to a single space.
- provide support (counseling, art therapy, healing, trauma-focused initiatives, amongst other things) by prison abolitionist organisations that recognise the harms perpetrated by the criminal justice system.
- provide specialist services for marginalised groups, including survivors of colour and queer, trans, migrant and disabled survivors.
- only house provisions that do not cooperate with the Home Office or MOJ in any capacity or deny access to individuals on the basis of immigration status.
- provide a free childcare scheme.
- be free at the point of use for organisations operating in the building.
- display the artwork of survivors of state and domestic violence and provide a library, craft space, kitchen and comfortable and accessible seating. It should be a free, relaxing space for members of the local community.
We also demand that Peabody sever its financial and organizational relationship with MOPAC, and commit to constructing social housing and a women’s building guided by the above and serving the needs of the community and survivors of state, domestic and sexual violence.
While the government invests in more prisons and more policing, we know that these only increase violence; social housing and fully funded, specialised services for all survivors of domestic abuse can decrease it. There are over 14000 households on the waiting list for social housing in Islington. The Holloway site must be used to provide these services. We will fight for as long as we need to in order to ensure our demands are met.
Sisters Uncut statement on the sale of Holloway Prison
Friday, March 8, 2019
After reclaiming Holloway Prison’s Visitor Centre and working with community groups on a new vision for Holloway, we at Sisters Uncut hope that the new owners, Peabody, will listen to our demands and stick to their promises.
In May 2017 we reclaimed Holloway Prison’s Visitor Centre. We transformed a space of state violence, holding a week-long community festival with activities and workshops and demanded that the land continued to be used for public good.
We demanded that the land be used to provide genuinely affordable housing, and host a women’s* building. This building could provide services to all women and non-binary people affected by state violence, especially supporting survivors of colour, LGBTQ and disabled survivors.
New owners, Peabody, reached out to us today. They have promised a minimum 60% affordable housing provision and a Women’s Centre on the old prison site. We are glad to see our demands reflected in Peabody’s statement, and we are keen to enter discussions with them to create a new vision for Holloway which works for the community. We remain sceptical until we see our demands met in practice.
Community demands are all too often forgotten about or diluted beyond recognition in the implementation phase. We will keep on fighting ensure this land is actually used for public good, and not just as good PR for Peabody. One aspect that already gives us concern, is the changing of ‘women’s building’ in our initial demands to ‘women’s centre’ in Peabody’s documents. We will hold Islington Council and Peabody to account over our demands to ensure they are not watered down.
We regret that the sale of this land has helped generate income for the Tories’ plan to build new mega-prisons’, which slash prison budgets while doing nothing to reduce prisoner numbers. Prison and detention are dehumanising, racist, classist, sexist and transphobic. We do not believe that prisons offer a solution to crime. We at Sisters Uncut continue to fight state violence and injustice.
“Abolitionist feminism is a response to the carceral feminism of the past. This project will help to create greater insight, and hopefully more action against the prison industrial complex.”
Angela Davis speaking about the reclamation of Holloway Women’s Prison, 2017
Our demand is that the money made from the sale of the prison be used to fund services in the planned women’s* building. Using money from the sale of the site would be a symbol of recognition and reparation for local survivors of domestic and sexual violence and the women of Holloway Prison.
We hope the new site can act as a remedy for the pain so many women suffered at the hands of state violence.
* ‘Women’s Building’ is the language used by Islington Council. We will fight for a building and services that are available to all non-binary, gender non-conforming people and women and that the name is changed to reflect that.
Images from the week-long community festival we held in the reclaimed visitor’s centre of Holloway Prison.
PRESS RELEASE: Sisters Uncut hack tube poems to amplify voices silenced by the state
Friday, March 8, 2019
- North London Sisters Uncut hack London tube lines, replacing adverts with poems from women & non-binary people who have been silenced by the state.
- The poems share real stories of how government cuts and ‘hostile environment’ policies have left survivors locked up in prison, locked out of refuges, and locked in violent relationships.
- The group believes the Government’s Domestic Abuse Bill will further criminalise survivors of domestic violence and are instead calling for fully-funded specialist services.
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North London Sisters Uncut took to the tubes last night, replacing poster adverts with poems by survivors of domestic and state violence to mark International Women’s Day.
The collection of 14 original poems, written by survivors, domestic violence sector workers and their allies, document the real stories of women and non-binary people who have found themselves locked up in prison, locked out of refuges, and locked in violent relationships, due to government cuts and hostile environment policies.
The group distributed 300 copies of the poems, designed to mimic the famous ‘Poems of the Underground’ posters, across the Central, Northern, Victoria and Piccadilly lines.
In the poems, authors describe how they fear fleeing violent relationships because of their insecure immigration status, while others share experiences of being imprisoned in detention centres after reporting the domestic abuse they suffered to police.
The Government’s ‘hostile environment’ towards migration means that women and non-binary people with an insecure immigration status are barred from accessing domestic violence services and also risk being arrested, detained and deported when reporting abuse to police and public services.
BME women’s groups have raised concern at how the threat of immigration removal is being “used by abusers against women – to scare them into not seeking help.” Last summer, Southeast London Sisters Uncut exposed the practice of covert immigration officers being embedded in local-authority run domestic violence services, in an attempt to catch those with unstable immigration status when they attempted to seek help.
Nadia Bell, Sisters Uncut activist said: “We hope to show Londoners how Theresa May’s government is really treating women and non-binary people who are trying to escape domestic violence.”
“This International Women’s Day, it is important to recognise the work that still needs to be done to guarantee safety for ALL survivors, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or immigration status.”
Some of the poems also focus on the Government’s Domestic Abuse Bill, which places a large focus on expanding police powers. Sisters Uncut are concerned that this will further criminalise survivors of domestic violence, as in the USA, similar policies have led to an increase in the number of survivors being arrested. Testimonies from sector workers and case studies in the media show that survivors are often arrested following interactions with police, despite their partners being the primary aggressors.
The draft bill has also been criticised by women’s groups for its failure to guarantee access to services for migrant survivors. A very limited opportunity to access support has been included in the bill, but in order to qualify for it, migrant survivors must meet certain conditions, such as having a partner with British citizenship.
Grace Chan, domestic violence sector worker said: “The DV Bill is intended to ‘deliver more convictions’ for domestic violence, which we fear will further criminalise survivors of abuse. The solution doesn’t lie in giving the police more power – Theresa May needs to give power and options back to survivors by funding specialist services.”
The violence perpetrated against women and non-binary people may go ignored by the Government, but Sisters Uncut hope to bring these life-or-death issues into sharp focus for those on their daily commute.
Notes for Editors:
North London Sisters Uncut is part of Sisters Uncut, a direct action group known for using bold tactics to protest cuts to domestic violence services. The North London group is well-known for reclaiming Holloway Prison’s Visitor Centre as a Women’s Building (inclusive of trans women and non-binary people).
Sisters Uncut is formed of non-binary people and women. Non-binary people are usually ignored when it comes to compiling official statistics on DV, but they still disproportionately experience gendered violence – research shows that 39% have experienced domestic violence.
Why we’ve taken over the underground with poetry on International Women’s Day
Friday, March 8, 2019
Content note: racism, murder, domestic abuse, misogyny
Sisters Uncut stormed the Baftas, occupied a prison for a week and now, on International Women’s Day, has taken over London’s underground with poems.
Why? While the government likes to use this day to present itself as feminist, its policies are criminalising women and non-binary people. The poems on the underground show the stories of women who have found themselves locked up in prison, locked out of refuges, and locked in violent relationships, due to government cuts and hostile environment policies.
The draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which was published this January, seeks to increase arrests and threatens vulnerable women in the process. No woman should be criminalised for calling the police after being abused at home.
Similar policies across the USA have led to an increase in survivors of domestic violence being arrested, especially those from marginalised and oppressed communities. Police investigations can also leave women vulnerable. Testimonies from sector workers and case studies in the media show that survivors are often arrested following interactions with police, despite their partners being the primary aggressors.
The bill lacks substantive engagement with how factors like race, gender identity, sexuality and class shape experiences of domestic violence and access to support. It only pays lip service to migrant survivors and survivors with no recourse to public funds, while failing to mention how the government’s racist immigration policies force many migrant women to remain in life-threatening situations, instead of seeking support.
Insecure immigration status can often itself be a consequence of violence, but under the government’s racist ‘Hostile Environment’ policies, calling the police on an abuser can result in immigration checks, detention and deportation. Recent Freedom of Information Requests reveal that 27 out of 45 police forces across the country share details about the victim’s immigration status to the Home Office – this includes cases of domestic violence. Last summer, Southeast London Sisters Uncut exposed covert immigration officers, who were being embedded in local-authority run domestic violence services in an attempt to catch those with unstable immigration status when they attempted to seek help.
Women with insecure immigration status are cut off from accessing state funds. This means that migrant women can be turned away from domestic violence shelters. A 2017 Women’s Aid study shows that only 7% of women with No Recourse to Public Funds found space in a shelter when escaping from domestic violence.
The government’s cuts to domestic violence services disproportionately target specialist services, making it increasingly hard for migrant and BME survivors to access the support they need. This often leaves migrant women with no way out; the government further cut all legal aid to immigration in 2012, meaning that being in formal employment, opening a bank account and even driving is a crime when undocumented.
This is why the #Stepupmigrantwomen campaign calls for a ‘Firewall’ at the levels of policy and practice, and safe reporting mechanisms: ‘seeking safety should never be more dangerous than staying with a perpetrator’. Reporting domestic violence and other crime and accessing services should be separate from immigration control. This is a matter of life and death.
As anti-carceral feminists, Sisters Uncut believe that the criminal justice system does nothing to protect domestic violence survivors. In the UK, 46% of women in prison are survivors of domestic violence.
A year and a half ago, we occupied Holloway Prison to demand services not sentences. Holloway, the largest women’s prison in western Europe, was closed suddenly in 2016 and the 600 inmates were moved to prisons in rural areas, separated from their support networks. The prison is now standing empty on a 10-acre site of public land. An estate regeneration expert, GVA, is managing the sale of the land. Meanwhile, the money from its sale will go back into building 5 new mega prisons across England.
Holloway has a painful and complicated legacy as a place of criminalisation and state violence against women. The suffragettes were force-fed and labelled terrorists in Holloway, Sarah Reed tragically died in Holloway after being abandoned by the state, while the ‘ringleaders’ of the Yarl’s Wood hunger strikes were imprisoned in the prison. Any future building on this land must reflect and redress this traumatic past. Public land should be used for public good, not to benefit a small elite.
We reclaimed Holloway prison for a week-long community festival to show the government precisely what it could be doing with the land. We took over the space to service the local community and support local women, rather than criminalise them.
A host of local campaigns, including our occupation of the prison, has meant that the site’s planning document now includes reference to a women’s building and ‘affordable housing’. How exactly this will look is yet to be seen — but Sisters Uncut continue to keep our eye on the state and its actions.