We Will Not Be Divided – Statement from Sisters Uncut

rs21 has signed Sisters Uncut’s statement against police and state violence and the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021. This was originally published on 23 March 2021 on the Sisters Uncut website and has been signed by other groups including Black Lives Matter UK, Jewish Solidarity Action and Docs Not Cops. 

Image shows a woman holding up a placard reading Power to the People Not the Police with a backdrop of other women in the crowd.
Photo credit: Steve Eason, Flickr. A protester at a demonstration against the police crackdown bill, 3 April 2021.

It feels like every day a new story about police violence comes to light. Over the past week, we’ve seen a police officer walk free after being caught on camera assaulting a woman, using tactics that he had learned on the job to force her to the ground, screaming that she was a ‘fucking slag’ when she managed to escape. In the 6 years between 2012 and 2018 there were 594 complaints of sexual violence against Met police employees, of which only 119 were upheld. We know that only a fraction of incidents of sexual violence are ever reported to the police, so it’s safe to assume that the true number is far, far higher. With the passing of the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act earlier this month, the state authorised police officers to deceive women into sexual relationships, and even into pregnancy. The police are the perpetrators.

The police already have a monopoly on violence and the Police Crackdown Bill will only entrench this further. Protests in Bristol over the weekend were described in national newspapers as having ‘turned violent’, yet we know that it was protesters, not police, who bore the brunt of that violence. Police tactics, including kettling, the use of batons, and dispersal techniques such as horse charges, are violent in both intent and effect. Whether they are manhandling protesters at Saturday’s vigil in memory of Sarah Everard, aggressively pursuing young Black women for their details, or forcefully arresting protestors for shaking their heads at officers, as we saw last weekend at Bristol, it is clear that it is the police who turn protest into violence.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will enable the police to decide where, when and how citizens are allowed to travel, congregate, protest, and work. Sentences of up to 10 years are laid down for anything from a protest to a house party or even just a lone individual causing ‘serious annoyance’. This bill attacks all communities, and it is all of us that must resist.

31 years ago, a mass movement formed in opposition to Thatcher’s poll tax, a flat tax that would have punished the poorest in society, and took to the streets to defeat a bill that could not be defeated in parliament. During the protests, mounted police and police vans charged through crowds of people, who were beaten with batons, but politicians and the media drew a contrast between a moral majority and a small number of violent protesters. The stigmatisation of protesters is a tactic of division that we won’t stand for. It is a fearful response by a state that thrives on division and scarcity. While the police can use violence against people with impunity, protesters are condemned for ‘violent’ damage to property.

We applaud all those who went out this weekend, and took to the streets to defend the right to a life free of state violence. The police use violence to divide us, but we will not be divided. The conservative media attempts to paint a moral hierarchy, but we will not be forced apart. We know that this bill can be defeated, and we are coming together in a coalition of solidarity to do just that. We will not be silenced. We will kill the bill!

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