After a ten-hour standoff with police last night, women’s rights campaign Sisters Uncut announced this morning that they are in control of the recently closed women’s prison in London.
Sisters let themselves into the building through an open window yesterday afternoon, draping banners outside reading “this is public land, our land” before being surrounded by a large contingent of Met police. After a brief siege, during which police attempted to forcibly remove some of the Sisters from the site, they have now held it as an occupation.
Holloway, currently designated as a commercial property awaiting redevelopment, is not subject to anti-squatting legislation as it is not a residential site.
The group, which has taken on other occupations in recent months to win better conditions and protections for vulnerable people, is planning to use the site as a venue for their North London Community Festival, which is putting on discussions on topics such as domestic violence, migrant solidarity, wellbeing and community services until June 2nd for people who don’t identify as men.
They are calling for Holloway, currently set to be turned into yet another multi-billion pound luxury housing development, to be turned over to community use with a women’s centre and affordable housing projects.
Speaking to inews, Sisters Uncut activist Aisha Streetson said: “We are reclaiming the former prison, a site of violence, to demand that public land is used for public good. Prisons are an inhumane response to social problems faced by vulnerable women – the government should provide a better answer.”
The Sisters have also voiced their concerns at the way in which prisoners are being pushed out of accessible areas as places like Holloway close and into new “megaprisons” built far away from loved ones, worsening problems of isolation which contribute to horrifically high levels of mental health problems, self harm and suicide across Britain’s prison network.
Earlier this year Freedom mapped what was known of the changing prisons estate, showing how prisoners were being pushed out to rural locations with few public transport links.