Activists from feminist direct action group Sisters Uncut have occupied part of the recently closed Holloway Prison in North London, as they escalate their campaign for increased resources for domestic violence services.
At 2:30pm on Saturday afternoon, eight women from the group entered the visitor’s centre of the women’s prison – which shut its doors in 2016 – while over 100 supporters rallied outside.
The action comes as general election campaigning once again gets into full flow, with Sisters Uncut having spent years trying to highlight the catastrophic impact sweeping cuts to domestic violence services are having. According to Women’s Aid, refuges are now being forced to turn away two thirds of women seeking safety. When it comes to BME women, that number rises to 4 in 5.
Sisters Uncut claim to be the ‘voice of domestic violence survivors’ in this election. They criticise Theresa May for failing to deliver her promise to make it easier for domestic violence survivors to vote in. This means that many survivors are locked out of voting for fear that their abuser will track them down via their address.
Holloway Prison, the largest women’s prison in Western Europe, closed suddenly in 2016 and the buildings have been left empty since. Sisters Uncut plan to maintain their ‘reclamation’ for a week, holding workshops on women’s well being, self-defence and legal rights in the space, and long-term want to see the prison turned into a women’s centre.
Emergency services were on the scene quickly, although at present no arrests have been reported. Flares were let off and placards raised on the roof, as those inside began preparing the space for community workshops and events. Police officers continue to surround the building, although after a ten hour stand off the activists now say the space is secured.
[This article appeared originally in Huck magazine. For the full text, click here.]