Protests: There’s an urgent need for intersectional solidarity that can’t be ignored anymore
‘It is not fair that protection is only for white women it seems. It is not fair. It is not right. I’m going to keep coming out because it is the right thing to do’
Last night constituted the fourth consecutive night of protesting in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard and the proposed, and now passed, Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
Like the previous nights, people gathered to mourn and agitate for change, but last night speakers from various organisations additionally emphasised the urgent necessity for increased intersectional solidarity.
Throughout the evening the chant of “love one another, support one another” echoed.
But, speakers from Sistah Space, All Black Lives UK, Sisters Uncut and a number of other organisations all emphasised the need for greater action and accountability when the victims of violence at the hands of the police are not white or their cases well reported in the media. They emphasised the inequality of support when black, trans, queer and migrant women suffer state violence and oppression and called for greater solidarity amongst all women.
Sistah Space emphasised how those who have been surprised by the violence displayed by the police force at Clapham Common on Saturday have been ignorant or ignoring the reality of institutional violence against women, especially women of colour.
Sisters Uncut posted last night: “The brutality by police on Clapham Common echoes the institutional violence against women and non-binary people that we experience everywhere: in our homes, in the streets, in the systems that claim to protect us.
“We wanted to #KILLTHEBILL because the criminal justice system is a violently racist institution. We wanted to #KILLTHEBILL because more police powers mean more survivors being arrested, especially black women and women of colour.”
Whilst everyone emphasised their solidarity with the loss of Sarah Everard, speakers appealed to the crowds of protesters, asking where such solidarity is when black women of colour suffer violence at the hands of the police – beseeching the gathered crowds for better solidarity amongst all women and feminists in the future.
A Sistah Space speaker told the crowd: “When we heard about Sarah, the human in us, the woman in us, the mother in us, the sister in us, felt the pain….I came out because Sarah is ME”.
Whilst crowds cheered and whooped she asked: “Where were you? For the 21-year-old who was missing since last year? The media didn’t pick it up – where were you?
“I’m coming out for you, whether you’re coming out for me or not. I’m coming out for you because it’s the right thing to do.
“There is a lot of abuse we face. This brutality by the police is not new to us. It’s our everyday thing.
“It is not fair that protection is only for white women it seems. It is not fair. It is not right. I’m going to keep coming out because it is the right thing to do, but you know, like, don’t do us like that. Don’t do us like that. If you see injustice for one – make it an injustice for all.”
Her daughter, in a spontaneous speech, echoed this message. She told the crowd: “A lot of you see the struggle, but you don’t see the struggle it takes to even get here.
“As a young black woman I come here knowing how much police there, where is my car parked, where is my mum, where is my aunty. This is not new to us. Police brutality is not new. I’m even surprised at the outrage, I’m disgusted at what happened to Sarah, God bless her soul.
“But I’m surprised – you lot are surprised at police brutality? Where were you last year? Where were you for the last 50 years? Come on now, this ain’t new.
“The last thing I’ll say is I’m glad to see the unity, I’m glad to see the different backgrounds, I’m glad to see everybody here, because as we say, we come out for everybody. Injustice is injustice. But a lot of you will stand, and you will cheer, and you will clap, but this ain’t a parade, this is real life. So you can stand, and you can clap and you can cheer, but next time you see a black person getting arrested by the police, get involved – the same way you’re getting involved now. Get involved. Black lives matter.”
Listening to all women’s voices is important, but we have to remember not just to prioritise and amplify the voices of white women. We must be intersectional at this time and recognise the additional struggles faced by women of colour, and that women of colour have experienced harassment and police brutality disproportionately. Feminism is about equality, and it absolutely has to encompass women of colour, trans women and other minorities, otherwise, we cannot call it equality.
The human rights campaign group Liberty called out to the crowd: “We are here today because the government wants to pit us against one another, to criminalise our right to dissent, to challenge when we dare to stand up to power. They are voting against our right to protest, they are telling us that objection to oppression is worse than oppression itself”.