As we woke this morning to wish our mums a happy and restful day, my mind could not, and has not moved away from the scenes last night on Clapham Common as women stood, with candles lit, at a vigil for a murdered sister, and became embroiled in a horrendous fracas, manhandled and verbally abused by men.
Across the country the call to Reclaim These Streets saw communities holding a candle-lit vigil on the doorstep. In Clapham, members of the local community each attended the place where Sarah Everard was last seen, to pay respects and raise awareness of the plight of women. That scene on the Common was one of quiet sadness and despair, women holding, along with candles, banners to protest the gender-based violence that is still on the increase, and placards calling for safety for women. Yet that quiet reflection was invaded. Those women, many already traumatised from their own experiences of physical assault, sexual assault, and rape, mums and mums-to-be, nans and grandmothers watched as the enforcement service descended on their grief; the police showing a complete lack of sensitivity for a community struggling with loss, arrested grieving women, pinning some to the floor, and handed out extortionate fines under the guise of Covid-19 legislation. Those attending wore masks, and were socially distanced, at least until the state troopers led the event into chaos.
We saw, in full technicolour, the perpetuation of the patriarchal system that is straining to keep a hold on women as we continue to rise to demand better.
We have seen domestic violence figures continue to increase, notably during the Coronavirus pandemic as women are trapped behind closed doors with their abusers, and how many of those women will now trust the police? The events on Clapham Common have been compared to the treatment of the striking miners at Orgreave, and the despicable treatment of Liverpool fans at Hillsborough and their families throughout the Justice for the 96 campaign, and there are certainly patterns, with an obvious return to ‘eighties policing’, but for me the curtain was lifted on women’s history. I was watching the attacks on the suffragette movement, the beatings and arrests and imprisonment that our sisters suffered as they rose to demand ‘votes for women.’ Maybe not the same levels of violence from the ‘law enforcers’, truncheons might not have been on display, but as those women were held to the floor, there was certainly the same level of male toxicity.
The Black Lives Matter movement already shining a spotlight on racism within the police force, the circle of light has widened to highlight their contemptuous and chauvinistic treatment of women. The public now have a front and centre view of police behaviours.
After centuries of demands, we still do not have equal rights, women are still fighting for pay equity as we are held back financially, still sexually harangued, harassed and attacked, and having no faith in an inadequate justice system we understand the immediate need to implement strategies to deal with the issues that are ingrained in society. This mothers-day there will be 35% of women suffering abuse, the sons of that 35% are experiencing abuse too, children as victims of violence are predisposed to coercion and manipulation. A mother that is suffering under mental strain, that does not have the wherewithal, the tools and skills to help her child, might watch him carry those behaviours into adulthood. In turn, she will soon be blamed for failing to instil good values in her child. The lack of understanding of the pressures that families endure, means that victims of domestic violence are continually blamed for that which they cannot control.
If not supported, children of violence can become abusers, the circle must be broken by an immediate programme of education, not simply by recruiting more police officers. The behaviour of those officers last night, not just in Clapham but also in Liverpool, has caused real damage to police and community relations, so as we call to end violence through education, we must also demand a fit for purpose, non-aggressive police service to support our communities.
Many women cried tears of pain, anger and frustration watching the scenes unfold on Clapham Common, and in Liverpool, but the sisterhood immediately rose to support each other – the messages of love, support, and solidarity brought an energy that has already massively revitalised our movement.
We will continue as ever to use this pain to make us stronger, as women it’s what we do. We are calling on all of our sisters, every woman to join their trade union, their local community or pressure groups, and we are extending the call to our brothers, those within our movement that have always stood beside us, to do so again as we continue in our endeavour to win back our right to walk wherever we want, whenever we please, without fear of attack.
We will reclaim our right to equity, and equality, we will reclaim our right to safety, and we will reclaim our streets!
Happy Mother’s-Day to all women; to our mothers, those that are here, and those we have lost, those mothers that have lost their children, or have desperately wanted children, and those that are as mothers to children they care for. Those that have not chosen motherhood are mothers of the earth – so the wishes of Mothering Sunday go out to all.
Angela is a candidate for the NEC as part of the Democracy Alliance slate. Click on the image for more information.