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Activists occupy Holloway Prison in protest against cuts to women’s services

A hundred activists occupied the prison on Saturday afternoon

28 May, 2017 — By Emily Finch, Koos Couvée

Around a hundred activists occupied the prison on Saturday afternoon. Photo: @SistersUncut on Twitter

WOMEN’S rights campaigners have occupied the closed Holloway Prison in protest against cuts to women’s services and amidst fears the site will be turned into luxury flats.

Around 150 women from the feminist direct action group Sisters Uncut entered the visitors’ centre of the Camden Road prison through a window shortly before 3pm yesterday (Saturday).

The group are calling for a women’s centre and affordable housing to be built on the 10-acre site, which the Ministry of Justice is selling to make way for a potential £2 billion housing development.

The activists, who remain in the building, set off flares on the roof and put up a large white banner saying: “This is public land, our land.”

Activist Jasmine Roy, 24, who got involved in Sisters Uncut after Eaves, the charity supporting female victims of violence which she worked for, was closed following government cuts, said she wanted to highlight the negative impact prisons have on women especially.

“We want this building to be used as a women’s building to support women, because 60 per cent of women leaving prison don’t have a home to go to,” she said. “Women leaving prison need a lot of support. [And] want the larger piece of land to be used for actual, affordable, social housing.”

“We’re occupying to show how positive the space could be if it were for women. It’s been empty since July.”

Police surrounded the occupied building on Saturday afternoon but allowed the all-female group of activists to enter and exit the building freely at midnight. There were no police present outside the prison centre at 2pm on Sunday but six security guards remained.

Sisters Uncut intend to occupy the building for a week of talks and workshops on a range of topics including housing campaigns, how to disrupt immigration raids, support for migrants and refugees and self-defence.

The group previously occupied Hackney Town Hall to protest cuts to domestic services. They also laid down in protest on the red carpet at the film premiere of Suffragette in 2015, which first brought them national attention.

A Met spokesman said: “Police were called on Saturday, 27 May shortly after 14:20 hours to Holloway Prison following a report that a number of people were attempting to gain access to the main entrance.

“Officers attended and found a group protesters inside a premises believed linked to the prison. Officers are currently on scene and speaking with them. There are no arrests at this stage.”

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “We are aware of an ongoing protest on the site of HMP Holloway. Police have been notified and security is on site in to maintain safety and order.”

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