2017: How to build on the growing Shut Down Yarl’s Wood demonstrations?

The Yarl’s Wood Demonstrations have been massive for the anti-detention movement. Indeed, the tireless work of Movement for Justice and others has created the movement. The demonstrations are not just shows of solidarity with women detained in the centre, but a reminder that the day to day of anti-detention work is not carried out in isolation and a sign of the growing strength of anti-detention sentiment.Two things struck me about December’s Yarl’s Wood Demo. Firstly, as I entered the demonstration and walked to the far end of the field, there were so many pockets of song and organisation, each expressing their outrage and love in overlapping yet distinctive ways. A coalition of groups representing

Two things struck me about December’s Yarl’s Wood Demo. Firstly, as I entered the demonstration and walked to the far end of the field, there were so many pockets of song and organisation, each expressing their outrage and love in overlapping yet distinctive ways. A coalition of groups representing organisational capacity to do more and more to resist detention.

Secondly, that when MFJ enabled women in detention to take to the microphone – there was a unifying respect and discipline: everyone was there to listen, to respond and to work alongside the women in Yarl’s Wood to shut it down. This unified display of political intention, to me, shows a movement learning a common way of doing politics together.

The question for 2017 is how can this movement expand and escalate from Yarl’s Wood demonstrations?

An answer, for me, must include growing a base of support against the men’s detention estate.

This is important because we know the dangers of movements that select groups of people subject to oppression as deserving of support. While policy changes may be made, the effect is to solidify the appearance of the fairness of detention without diminishing the numbers of people incarcerated and deported.

We urgently need to recognise the intersecting racist and sexist violence that occurs in Yarl’s Wood that manifests many ways, not least the numerous allegations of sexual assault committed by guards and the large numbers of survivors of rape that are held there. At the same time, it is important to resist becoming a campaign that falls into the trap of pitting good categories migrants against bad migrants. This is important especially in the context of widespread gendered and racist representations about black, male adults as threatening and expendable. Black men are both vulnerable to the violence detention and deportation and worthy of mass mobilisation against their incarceration.

 

I hope the Yarl’s Wood demonstrations continue and expand. But my hope for the movement is that it can draw strength from them and expand resistance across the detention estate.

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