Sisters Uncut protest in Glasgow

Women’s rights group, Sisters Uncut, came out in full force on Sunday across the country to protest ahead of the autumn statement. Over 600 women from the national anti-domestic violence group joined peaceful but powerful protests in London, Newcastle, Bristol and Glasgow.

Sisters Uncut (SU) started in London in 2014, it was born out of a recognition that other advocate groups weren’t addressing the fact that cuts disproportionately affect women, their services and their lives. Sisters Uncut came into existence to fight for the things which were specifically affected by government cuts.

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Sisters Uncut stage protest in Glasgow

The Glasgow group followed the original faction after a representative moved to Glasgow and begun asking questions about whether something similar was needed there. Some research told them that there was a definite need. Around the same time, other regional groups sprung up. So now Sisters Uncut is a UK-wide banner for feminist collectives who want to fight against austerity.

Zoe Stewart, the Glasgow representative for Sisters Uncut Glasgow (SUG) explained;

‘The reason that as a group we block bridges is because refuges are often a bridge for women out of violence and into living a safer life, particularly for black and minority ethnic women who’s access is much more limited.’

For this particular demonstration SUG chose an alternative way of making their voices heard. Whilst other groups across the country chose to block their bridges they dropped banners off the River Clyde.

‘As it was our first public action we didn’t think it would be a great idea to alienate the public in that way and to get in their way. In London if you block something like Waterloo bridge, most of the people you are inconveniencing are the elites who are trying to get around, but in Glasgow that’s not quite the case. We chose to do something a bit more creative that would show people what we are campaigning for and what we’re about.’

A quarter of women on last census day done by Women’s Aid were turned away from refuge centres because there wasn’t enough space. There’s around 100 women in SUG and Scotland’s activity is expanding. In response to the weekend’s protests an Edinburgh group has been set up. Galvanised by the protests, a group of women in the Capital have set up social media sites and are looking to hold their first public meeting in the near future.

Stewart described how encouraging it is to see Glasgow included in the list of cities where action is being taken,

‘So often, especially with the cuts, there’s this assumption that somehow Scotland is safe, we’re not. Firstly, because whatever Westminster decides does affect our budget, but also because the SNP in their time in government have cut corporation tax which is money that could have been given to services in Scotland so we face our own problems.’

‘There’s a false idea of not running a proper taxation system because it somehow benefits our economy, this is at a time where services are on their knees. Things which are targeted at Westminster on a different level, domestically these services aren’t prioritised in a way that we think they are.’

The need for direct action has become a contentious one over the years but for groups like SU it appears to be the only way to make a marked difference and to have the policy makers hear women’s plight.

“We thought ‘what is direct action? what does it mean to be disruptive and to try and draw peoples attention to things?’ When we chose to do banner drops it was both about saying these are the kind of issues we talk about but also these are the kind of ways we do things.”

Whilst being creative and inclusive SU take inspiration from women who have been carrying out protest through direct action since the beginning of the women’s liberation movement.

“It’s about thinking creatively around how to get your message across and involve women while you’re doing it. So often we’re expected to keep quiet, not make a fuss, so getting women to make a noise and drop things off bridges is a complete retaliation to that.”

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