Feminists disrupt central London traffic and dye fountains red in demonstration styled as funeral for victims of domestic violence
Feminist activists have dyed Trafalgar Square’s fountains red after hundreds of women marched through London’s West End in a noisy protest against cuts to domestic violence services.
The demonstration, styled as a funeral procession for the victims of domestic violence, blocked roads and stopped traffic on a route that took the protesters from Soho to Trafalgar Square.
“They cut we bleed,” chanted marchers.
Saturday’s demonstration took place after George Osborne announced deep cuts to council budgets this week, which activists said would have a disastrous impact on services for women affected by domestic violence.
More than 30 specialist anti-domestic violence services have been forced to shut down since 2010, with many other services taken over by non-specialist providers. Further cuts will put the services that are left at risk, campaigners say.
More than 30 specialist anti-domestic violence services have been forced to shut down since 2010. Photograph: Damien Gayle/Sisters Uncut
Sarah Kwei, an activist with Sisters Uncut, the group that called the protest, said: “This is specifically a reaction to the 25 November, when the budget was announced and £4.1bn of cuts. That was the same day as the Elimination of Violence against Women Day.
“These cuts are going to affect women who are trying to flee domestic violence, through their benefits, their housing and their refuges. They are all being cut. We are taking direct action to say we are not going away. When two women a week are being killed by domestic violence, we can’t take it, we can’t accept it.”
The fountains in Trafalgar Square ran the colour of blood. Photograph: Sisters Uncut
Sisters Uncut claimed that 500 women attended the protest, which started in Soho Square with a memorial service for women killed this year by domestic violence. The names and ages of victims were read out as protesters stood in silence with their fists raised.
Many women were angry at the chancellor’s proposal to fund women’s services through the tax raised on women’s sanitary products, dubbed a “tampon tax” by critics. One protester, who gave her name only as Bea, marched with tampons painted red hanging from her belt to highlight the issue. “It demonstrates that the Conservative sees women’s health and safety as a luxury,” she said.
The march snaked through Soho and into Charing Cross road, on a route not cleared with police in advance. Protesters blocked the street, stopping traffic. They paused at Cambridge Circus, firing up a sound system and chanting: “We shut shit down!”
Zara Khan, a domestic violence support worker, said: “Every day I fight for women’s lives and now I am fighting for my ability to do that. The government should be making it easier, not more difficult, for women to flee life-threatening violence.”
The Department for Communities and Local Government strongly denied that women’s services would suffer from the cuts.
A government spokesman said: “Contrary to some reports, the government has just announced increased funding of £40m over the next four years to support victims of domestic violence as part of the spending review.
“This government is fully committed to ensuring that no victim of domestic abuse is turned away from the support they need.”