Bridges across England blockaded to demand action on domestic violence

Bridges across England blockaded to demand action on domestic violence
Sisters Uncut — Activists across the United Kingdom shut down bridges to highlight how survivors of domestic violence - particularly migrant women and women of colour - have no path to safety in Britain.

Busy bridges across the United Kingdom were blockaded Sunday by hundreds activists from Sisters Uncut, who demanded the British government increase spending and support for survivors of domestic violence.

About 600 people took part nationwide — mostly women and nonbinary people, who identify themselves as neither male or female.  A third of the activists joined the London protest, which unfolded just three days before the British government’s first Autumn Statement budget speech.

Meeting at Trafalgar Square, the capital’s action kicked off at midday, with the names of women who died at the hands of abusive partners read out. Each echoed as the crowds stood silent and remembered. Then the protest got moving, shutting down the streets until at 1 p.m. The group blocked Waterloo Bridge in front of the Houses of Parliament. Both lanes of traffic were stopped, with the activists blocking the busy thoroughfare for 40 minutes.

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“You break our bridges, we break yours,” they chanted, the same words could be heard in Newcastle, Glasgow and Bristol, where similar actions took place. Bridges were blocked as a symbol: They say migrant women fleeing domestic violence have their ‘bridges to safety’ blocked by “no recourse to public funds” restrictions, which mean they can’t access shelters or benefits, and remain trapped facing life-threatening violence.
Sisters Uncut demand that this barrier be lifted and that “safety not be subject to immigration status.”
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The police in London didn’t seem to aware as to what was happening, one liaison officer donning a bright blue bib asked our photographer he had any ideas as to what was happening. Meanwhile Sisters Uncut explained how it’s not just migrants who are being failed by domestic violence services nationwide.
Austerity makes life more dangerous for those facing domestic violence too. A recent Women’s Aid report showed 52% of domestic violence survivors say they “cannot afford” to leave.

With the flares now in short supply, on speaker criticised Prime Minister Theresa May’s pledge of £20m of temporary funding for domestic violence services, available to service-providers via a bidding process, as a ‘sticking plaster on a haemorrhage’. They hope that these actions, and the plenty more they intend to keep coming should nothing change, will force the government to rethink their approach to domestic violence.

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There was a particular focus on the needs of black, Asian and minority , or BAME women.  Nine in 10 BAME survivors of domestic violence prefer to receive support from a specialist BAME organisation, according to a 2015 report by Imkaan, the only UK-based organisation dedicated to addressing violence against women from visible minorities. Despite this, government austerity measures have hit groups supporting Asian, African and Caribbean communities the hardest, according to Sisters Uncut.

“When I went to the police with bruises, they said they couldn’t see my bruises because I was black”, said Marcia Smith, a domestic violence survivor from Doncaster who joined the protest in Newcastle. “People don’t see black women as victims and we get racism instead of help. With black services, you don’t have racism, you have the trust and support you need.”

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“As domestic violence services shrink, Sisters Uncut will continue to grow,”a Sisters Uncut member named Nadine added. “We will not stand by as black and brown survivors are left stranded in abusive homes without the bridges to safety provided by specialist domestic violence services, whilst migrant survivors with ‘no recourse to public funds’ find all of their bridges blocked by the government’s immigration policies.”

By 1:45 p.m., the London group were once again on the move, making their way to the other side of the River Thames before dispersing.

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