I spent this evening at a quiet but moving protest outside parliament. It was called by Climate Rush, to commemorate the centenary of the suffragettes’ “Black Friday”, when a delegation of some 300 women went to parliament to demand a debate on the Conciliation Bill, which would have given a limited number of women the vote.
Two hundred of them were arrested, by a regiment of 6,000 police, and as we heard in some of the contemporary accounts last night, they were handled violently and abusively. Two died soon after, deaths that were attributed at least in part to their treatment on that day.*
We assembled on College Green, some 300-strong (the police contingent was much in evidence – must have been at least 150-strong), heard accounts from suffragettes of Black Friday, and a speech from Caroline Lucas MP, the Green Party leader. She told us that today there’d been a hearing on climate change attended by 12 – TWELVE – MPs, illustrating the importance of climate campaigning, given the urgency of the issue.
Wearing sashes reading “Well behaved women rarely make history”, carrying candles, we processed around Parliament Square. I walked with Clementine, aged three-AND-three-quarters, almost certainly the youngest protester – there were women (and a few men) of all ages.
Stopping to chant “Deeds not words” at the parliament’s gates (the WSPU slogan that on climate change – and indeed the position of women – still has powerful resonance), we finished by laying a wreath in memory of the women who suffered and died as a result of Black Friday.
I’ve posted on YouTube a short recording of part of Caroline Lucas’s speech (no, the evening wasn’t really this psychedelic – something went a little wrong with the video technology).
* The two women who died soon after the protest, having been mistreated physically on it, were Mary Clarke and Henria Williams.
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