Sisters Uncut Occupied Holloway Prison This Weekend

They protested for increased resources for domestic violence services

Sisters Uncut Occupied Holloway Prison This Weekend

by Molly Shanahan |
Published on

While we were all enjoying the sun and an extra day off this weekend, vital activism was being carried out by the women of Sisters Uncut. Seven women entered the abandoned Holloway Prison visitors centre through an open window in order to protest for increased resources for domestic violence survivors and to set up a makeshift workshop centre for women for the rest of the week.

Sisters Uncut is an activist group and national mass movement fighting for domestic violence support. They were founded by domestic violence survivors and sector workers in 2014. The Holloway protests were organised by the North London branch of the group and the women engaged in a 10 hour stand-off with police, before ‘securing’ the site to be used as a women’s centre for the forthcoming week. Previous protests by the movement have included dying Trafalgar Square fountains red and blocking bridges across the UK. Their actions come in response to the state of female domestic abuse survivor’s rights in the UK. In 2015, Women’s Aid reported that refuges are being forced to turn away 2 in 3 survivors who approach them to safety, for BME women, that number rises to 4 in 5 turned away.


No arrests were made on the day of the protests, however, the 70 officers present used a controversial crowd management tactic known as ‘kettling’, which means that the women inside were left unable to leave and access toilets, water or food, while temperatures reached 28 degrees

The women’s prison has been abandoned since 2016, but in its years as a functioning institution has seen its fair share of both female activism and tragedy. From its historic housing of Suffragettes to inmate Sarah Reed, who was the victim of police brutality, and died there after battling with her mental health and despite several concerns for her safety raised by her mother, the walls of this prison holds years of tales about the fight for female emancipation and equality.

The Sisters Uncut campaign speaks directly to the heart of the way the legal system treats women and specifically female survivors of domestic abuse in the UK. A local domestic violence support worker, Lauren Massing, who attended the protest, highlighted the statistic that '46% of women in prison are domestic violence survivors – if they had the support they needed, it’s likely they wouldn’t end up in prison.' She went on to add that, 'if the government have money for mega-prisons, they have money for domestic violence support services.' The Ministry of Justice is planning to sell the land where the prison currently stands to a private company and build luxury apartments. Sisters Uncut have a simple response to this: “public land for public good.'

The upcoming general elections have seen yet another disappointing loss for the women of the UK, as Women’s Aid campaigned for the government to make it safer for domestic violence survivors to vote. The government agreed to make appropriate changes to the electoral system in order for this to happen and to prevent survivors being locked out of voting for fear that their abuser will track them down via their address. These changes have sadly not been realised in time for the general election.

Sisters Uncut plan for their ‘reclamation’ to be maintained this week, holding workshops on women’s wellbeing, self-defense and legal rights. Local community member Jasmine Roy says, “A women’s centre on this site would be a positive thing. Holloway is a historical site of violence against women: the suffragettes were imprisoned and force-fed here, whilst Sarah Reed died tragically last year. This land should be used for services and support, not luxury apartments”.

Photography by Ron F

Like This? Then You Might Also Be Interested In:

The Protests At Yarl's Wood This Weekend Remind Us That The General Election Is Just A Sideshow

The Correlation Between Domestic Violence And Terror Is Distressingly Stark

How Sisters Uncut Are Changing The Way Politics Is Done

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us