Protesters occupy Royal Courts of Justice to highlight police violence against women

Sisters Uncut members chanted, let off smoke flares and sounded rape alarms at the Royal Courts of Justice

Feminist activists protested with smoke flares and rape alarms at a central London law court to protest “systemic violence against women” in the police force.

Protest group Sisters Uncut held a demonstration at the Royal Courts of Justice (RCJ) on Tuesday, November 2, to highlight police brutality and deliver a formal letter of complaint.

Gathering at the building on the Strand, home to the High Court and Court of Appeal, protestors chanted amid coloured smoke flares and set off “hundreds” of rape alarms.

Demonstrators protested police violence

The letter, read inside the RCJ at 3.30pm, stated: “Today we withdraw our consent to police power.

“The police claim Wayne Couzens was one bad apple, a lone monster, but we know 15 officers have killed women since 2009.

“We know the police treated the family of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman with utter contempt: officers took photos of their dead bodies and turned the horrific violence they’d experienced into a joke.

“We raise the alarm with our sisters and communities. In rage and grief, we refuse to be silent.”

Speakers at the demonstration included members of Sisters Uncut, Feminist Fightback, Women of Colour Global Women’s Strike and Women Against Rape, as well as Patsy Stevenson, who was pinned to the ground during the vigil for Sarah Everard in March 2020.

The group say security “manhandled activists” and that two black women were “hit in the face”, and footage shows protesters chanting as women struggle to pass by guards.

Banners at the RCJ on Tuesday

A spokesperson for the group said: “Thankfully no one was seriously harmed or arrested, but the irony of this kind of treatment at a protest for violence against women wasn’t lost on anyone who witnessed it.”

And the protest coincides with the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is expected to pass through Parliament in the coming weeks, and is seen by activists as a clampdown on the freedom to hold demonstrations.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) describe the bill as “strengthening police powers to tackle non-violent protests that have a significant disruptive effect on the public or access to Parliament”, and say the overhaul is to “better protect the public and back our police”.

Sisters Uncut is urging people to sign up to police intervention training, which they say equips civilians on “how to intervene when you see a stop and search, basic know your rights, and how to support those most targeted by racist and sexist police”.

While Angela Lloyd, a secondary school teacher who has recently joined a CopWatch group in west London said: “I joined my local CopWatch group because after all the news this year, I can no longer trust the police.

Protestors chanted, let off smoke flares and sounded rape alarms

“The relentless reports of the police’s violence against women has left me totally disgusted and disillusioned.

“It has felt like every single day since Sarah Everard was murdered, more stories of horrific police violence have come out, and nothing is being done to hold them to account.

“It feels like it’s up to us to hold them to account now.”

The Met Police directed LondonWorld to a statement issued after Wayne Couzens was sentenced to a whole-life term for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard.

A spokesperson said: “This is the most horrific of crimes, but we recognise this is part of a much bigger and troubling picture.

“There have been other horrific murders of women in public spaces, including the killings of Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, and very recently of Sabina Nessa.

“We will soon publish a new strategy for tackling violence against women and girls. This will outline how we will prioritise action against sexual and violent predatory offenders.

The group were protesting police violence against women

“We have established specialist Predatory Offender Units and since last November they have arrested more than 2,000 suspects for domestic abuse, sex offences and for child abuse.

“We are deploying 650 new officers into busy public places, including those where women and girls often lack confidence that they are safe. We are also stepping up reassurance patrols and providing an increased police presence where it is most needed.

“We expect the best of our officers and when they fall below our standards they undermine the public’s trust in us.   Couzens’ crimes are the most extreme example of this betrayal.

“They have been shattering for everybody and of course people have questions about the integrity of officers. 

“We only want the best of the best in the Met and we will always act when our employees fall below the standards we and the public expect and erode the trust we depend upon.

“All officers must and will now expect to work harder to gain the confidence of the public and be understanding and tolerant of reasonable questioning of their actions and identity as they go about their duty to protect Londoners.”