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Hundreds protest plans to move Hackney domestic abuse charity into “unsuitable premises”

PUBLISHED: 14:08 13 July 2020 | UPDATED: 16:15 13 July 2020

The protest, which was co-hosted by BLMUK and the London Renters Union, was attended by around 500 people. Picture: Andy Commons

The protest, which was co-hosted by BLMUK and the London Renters Union, was attended by around 500 people. Picture: Andy Commons

Andy Commons

Hundreds of people attended a socially-distanced protest outside Hackney Town Hall demanding “a safe space” for London’s only organisation serving African and Caribbean heritage survivors of domestic violence.

Hundreds gathered to protest the council's plans to move Sistah Space back into its former premises. Picture: Andy CommonsHundreds gathered to protest the council's plans to move Sistah Space back into its former premises. Picture: Andy Commons

This comes after Hackney Council announced that the charity Sistah Space must vacate its current premises in Mare Street and return to a building in Lower Clapton Road.

READ MORE: Hackney domestic violence charity fears services for victims could be impacted in premises dispute

Morgan Jones from Sisters Uncut, a feminist, anti-racist group which helped organise the protest on July 10, said: “The council evicting Sistah Space highlights its hypocrisy when it comes to anti-racism.

Sisters Uncut and other activists proceeded to blockading a nearby road to protest an increased police presence. Picture: Andy CommonsSisters Uncut and other activists proceeded to blockading a nearby road to protest an increased police presence. Picture: Andy Commons

“They say: ‘Black Lives Matter’, but Sistah Space provides life-saving services and the council’s decision to evict them is putting black women’s lives in danger.”

But the council says it has spent £35,000 refurbishing the Lower Clapton at the charity’s request – “providing safer, more secure and modernized facilities for staff and women seeking help”.

A spokesperson for the council told the Gazette: “Although Sistah Space had agreed to move back to their new premises once refurbishment was complete, we understand concerns about moving at this time and have offered to extend their current temporary arrangements until at least the end of July. We’ll continue to monitor this situation.”

Protesters joined Sisters Uncut in blockading the road outside the council building in response to what they called an Protesters joined Sisters Uncut in blockading the road outside the council building in response to what they called an "escalating police presence". Picture: Andy Commons

READ MORE: Hackney domestic violence charity warns Covid-19 lockdown is pressure cooker for abuse

The council stated its project team “went to great lengths” to agree the detailed specification of works with Sistah Space.

Still, campaigners are concerned the council are “putting profit before black lives” and have never invested in the charity, which is entirely funded through grants and donations, directly.

Protesters and activists gathered outside Hackney Town Hall on July 10, 2020. Picture: Andy CommonsProtesters and activists gathered outside Hackney Town Hall on July 10, 2020. Picture: Andy Commons

Since moving to its current premises Sistah Space states footfall has increased by 300 per cent.

READ MORE: Hackney MP warns against ‘one size fits all policy’ in future domestic abuse services

The charity maintains that the “shop front” in Lower Clapton is unsuitable for the work it does as it is too small and in a badly lit, out of sight area which is “dangerous after dark”.

Protesters take the knee in solidarity with Sistah Space and the Black Lives Matter movement. Picture: Andy CommonsProtesters take the knee in solidarity with Sistah Space and the Black Lives Matter movement. Picture: Andy Commons

It fears the move will put off people seeking help and limit the number of women it can support.

The council added, it has “never asked Sistah Space to pay any of the costs of its occupation” of its current premises.

READ MORE: Domestic violence charity Sistah Space marks five years since the murders of ‘community giant’ Valerie Forde and her baby daughter

Campaigners believe Hackney council's actions will lead to many women losing support from the vital services Sistah Space offers to women in London. Picture: Andy CommonsCampaigners believe Hackney council's actions will lead to many women losing support from the vital services Sistah Space offers to women in London. Picture: Andy Commons

Founder of Sistah Space Ngozi Fulani speaks about premises dispute. Picture: Andy CommonsFounder of Sistah Space Ngozi Fulani speaks about premises dispute. Picture: Andy Commons

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Taking the knee has become a global symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement after protests rupted around the world over the death of American George Floyd in police custody. Picture: Andy CommonsTaking the knee has become a global symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement after protests rupted around the world over the death of American George Floyd in police custody. Picture: Andy Commons

The protest boasted bold visuals including a banner drop, speeches, and live music, Picture: Andy CommonsThe protest boasted bold visuals including a banner drop, speeches, and live music, Picture: Andy Commons

Sisters Uncut criticsed the willingness of council's across the country to support Black Lives Matter with gestures and platitudes whilst cutting and defunding domestic violence services. Picture; Andy CommonsSisters Uncut criticsed the willingness of council's across the country to support Black Lives Matter with gestures and platitudes whilst cutting and defunding domestic violence services. Picture; Andy Commons

The protest included live music from Hackney drummers. Picture: Andy CommonsThe protest included live music from Hackney drummers. Picture: Andy Commons

A protester holds up a sign describing how black women suffer from A protester holds up a sign describing how black women suffer from "violent racism, misogyny and exclusion" and wehn seeking help risk "further marginalisation". Picture: Andy Commons

Hundreds of people attended the protest at Hackney Town Hall. Picture: Andy CommonsHundreds of people attended the protest at Hackney Town Hall. Picture: Andy Commons


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