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Sisters Uncut block off bridges across Britain

Demonstrations in London, Newcastle, Bristol and Glasgow saw protesters stop traffic to highlight cuts to specialist services for BME women survivors

Sisters Uncut, the UK-based women’s rights group, gathered in cities across the UK on Sunday (20 November) to demonstrate against cuts to services for BME domestic violence survivors.

With the upcoming Autumn Statement in mind, which will introduce particular welfare cuts that affect some of the UK’s most vulnerable, Sisters Uncut blocked traffic and set off flares at bridges in London, Bristol, Glasgow and Newcastle.

“It’s almost impossible to put into words how much power and love there is at our demonstrations,” Janelle from Sisters Uncut told Dazed. “We often time our demonstrations with government financial statements, to remind them that we're not going away until domestic violence survivors are supported by the services they need. The government needs to deliver a secure, long-term funding plan that works for all domestic violence survivors.”

The day’s slogan for the direct action, anti-domestic violence group was ‘you block our bridges, so we block yours’, referencing the government and Theresa May “blocking migrant domestic violence survivors’ bridges to safety”, according to a press release. May has pledged £20m in temporary funding for services, which the group has described as “sticking plaster on a hemorrhage”.

A 2015 report by Imkaan, a UK-based organisation dedicated to addressing violence against BME women, detailed that 9 in 10 survivors prefer to receive support from a specialist BME organisation. However, the support services most affected by austerity were those for African and Caribbean and Asian communities, and LGBT+ people.

Currently, 4 out of 5 BME women who approach refuges for aid are turned away.

Nadine, a Sisters Uncut member, said: “As domestic violence services shrink, Sisters Uncut will continue to grow. 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.”

Marcia Smith, a domestic violence survivor from Doncaster who attended the action in Newcastle, reflected on the lack of support she received from police after reporting domestic violence, because her bruises weren’t visible due to the colour of her skin. “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,” she said.

The group spent Monday 'ad-hacking' across London’s tube network with their message for secure funding for domestic violence survivors of any immigration status, ability, sexual orientation or race.