Content warning: mentions of violence
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen people come out in huge numbers, across the country, to protest the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts (PCSC) Bill, as well as wider gendered and state violence. What may have started out as vigils to remember Sarah Everard, and the countless other women who have lost their lives to gendered violence, quickly grew into a much bigger and radical movement. A movement that has always been there, doing the work, but garnered the full attention of the nation due to the heavy handed and blatant brutality displayed by the Metropolitan Police, on the 13th March, at a vigil on Clapham Common. And again more recently, with the scenes we saw yesterday at the protest in Bristol.
This weekend, in Manchester, was no different. On Saturday 20th March, thousands gathered in St Peter’s Square to protest state and gendered violence, and to stand in solidarity with each other. The protest was organised by Sisters Uncut Manchester, who told Aurelia ahead of the protest why showing up and taking to the streets is so important. “We are coming together this weekend to demand an end to state and gendered violence. We believe the solution to this lies in community solidarity and response, and well-funded public services. Not by increased police powers. Not by reducing our right to protest. This week has shown that when we march together, and act together, we can force the government to listen to the will of the people”, they said.
Sisters Uncut already have cause to celebrate with it being announced just this week that the PCSC Bill will now be delayed in its parliamentary journey to become law. The government had wanted to rush this bill through over the next few weeks, but were undoubtedly dissuaded by the sheer amount of people coming out to protest against it. And yet, even though the bill has now been delayed, that didn’t stop thousands of people from showing up and continuing the fight. Because the fight must go on.
The protest was powerful, emotive, and moving. People watched and listened in palpable silence as each speaker got up to speak, sharing a range of experiences including those of state violence and oppression, with the crowd then erupting into chants of ‘kill the bill’ and ‘ACAB’ as each speaker finished. It was a protest that was completely undeterred by the fact that there was an anti-lockdown protest earlier in the day, and those protesters had taken up the very space Sisters Uncut had organised to use. A protest that was undeterred by the many police officers, riot vans, and drones that circled the crowds, in the hope that it would intimidate and scare people.
But the real power of this movement is in its inclusivity. A movement by and for all. It’s a true and genuine form of solidarity, that doesn’t exclude certain communities. It’s not here to compromise on its values or its people, but to stand firm in the face of adversity. Sisters Uncut said of this: “The state’s abuses of power compound the trauma already faced by Black women, women of colour, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller women, migrant women, trans women, gender non-conforming and non-binary people, sex workers, and countless others. These communities are disproportionately impacted by state and interpersonal violence, and face increased barriers to access support.”
They add that this is why they “stand against state racism and gendered violence, including transphobia, and believe in coming together to oppose all forms of oppression and abuses of power.” And this is exactly what they did at the weekend. We came together to stand against all forms of violence, because in the end, that’s how real and long-term radical change will be achieved.
Standing amongst thousands of people chanting ‘kill the bill’, you can feel that this movement is not just some temporary or reactionary moment. People’s anger and pain, directed at those in power, isn’t going anywhere any time soon. But as well as anger, there was also a feeling of collective hope. People are energised and ready to continue taking direct action. This is a movement that is very much here to stay.
Shahed Ezaydi is the Deputy Editor of Aurelia. @shahedezaydi
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