London Metropolitan Police and state-sponsored misogyny

Women arrested at vigil
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We said at our United Left International Women’s Day celebration that institutionalised inequalities generated by capitalism on a daily basis have now reached an unbearable pitch. 

The kidnapping and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer from a London street just a few days later, tragically bore out the truth of that statement, together with the repressive policing of the subsequent women’s demonstration on Clapham Common.

These incidents starkly reveal the institutionalised misogyny at the heart of the British state.

This is the very police force so recently exposed as placing “spycops” (undercover police agents) inside groups campaigning for social justice, to form intimate personal relationships with women and dump them once their spying assignments ended.

They policed the demonstration in a context of precipitous decline in rape prosecutions and convictions over decades, despite an increase in reporting. The situation is in effect the normalisation and acceptance of sexual violence against women.

They used force against women demonstrators as legislation moves through parliament which, while creating new offences for those who destroy or damage statues, creates “draconian” powers for police to crack down on demonstrators.

Unite, Liberty, Big Brother Watch, Unite, the End Violence Against Women Coalition, Unlock Democracy, Cafod and Extinction Rebellion local groups have written to the home secretary, Priti Patel, and the justice secretary, Robert Buckland in protest at the 307-page Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill the Tories are rushing through parliament on 15 and 16 March.

What we saw on Clapham Common is capitalism in attack mode. As ingrained inequalities inherent in an unjust system sharpen, the privileged few use the capitalist state to declare in no uncertain terms: “This is normal and acceptable. Sexual violence is part of the system. Shut up and accept it or we will break your head.”  Black Lives Matter protests were policed in the same way in the US.

State-condoned sexual violence is not only a UK problem. Women are demonstrating in Australia over the denial of justice to women sexual violence survivors, they rose up a few months ago in Namibia and South Africa, and will continue to protest all over the world.

We in the trade unions must join with those demonstrating all over the world against all the manifestations of state-enforced inequality and injustice. We must spread far and wide the understanding that it is only by destroying and replacing the system that recreates them on a daily basis that we can end once and for all these old outdated prejudices. They are holding back the whole of society.

In the UK we must join the demands for the resignation of Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, and call for root and branch reform of the Met Police.

Bronwen Handyside
Editor, United Left