By Lauren Cape-Davenhill, These Walls Must Fall campaigns coordinator
At the University and College Union International Woman’s Day rally in Liverpool last week, the These Walls Must Fall banner made its way through sunny streets with about 400 passionate and noisy academics, students and university staff.
On arriving by the waterfront just down the road from a jaunty statue of the Beatles and next to a ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ bus, it was time to bring greetings from one strike to another.
Joyce, a resident of Liverpool and a woman formerly detained in Yarls Wood, spoke to highlight support for the Yarl’s Wood strikers – expressing solidarity and demanding an end to detention.
Over 100 hundred people detained in Yarl’s Wood are engaging in a series of “Hunger for Freedom” strikes – refusing food; and refusing to participate in the detention system (by, for example, refusing to work within the centre for which they are paid the shockingly low hourly rate of £1). The protesters are challenging indefinite detention, their treatment in detention centres and other brutal aspects of immigration enforcement such as charter flight deportations. You can read their demands here.
At the rally in Liverpool, we bumped into comedian Mark Thomas, who pledged support for the campaign and promised to express support for the Yarl’s Wood strikers in his Liverpool show.
Meanwhile, in Manchester, over 150 people were out on the streets near the Town Hall with candles and banners to show their solidarity. Migrant community organisers stood alongside local councillors, union activists alongside faith groups, local law centres alongside activists to show support for the strikers’ demands.
Women Asylum Seekers Together read out a statement from one of their members, who was in London lobbying parliament on the day of the rally. As someone who was detained in Yarl’s Wood, her words rang powerfully:
“We live one day at a time, not knowing what tomorrow holds for fear of being detained. We are always anxious and tense most times and that leaves people very depressed. To the people in Yarl’s Wood, I say: we are with you in solidarity. Continue to campaign. These walls must fall!”
The actions in Liverpool and Manchester were part of a national movement to show solidarity for Yarl’s Wood and challenge detention, with actions the same day in Glasgow, London and Leeds.
As one migrant campaigner put it:
“Everywhere people were in solidarity together. We are stronger. Surely these walls felt weak – and soon they will crack!”