In the first known charge of its kind under the Public Health Act Covid regulations, members of ROSA have been fined up to €500 and face prosecution over safe, outdoor protests highlighting gender violence during the pandemic. This follows activists in Belfast receiving fines of £200 for organising similar protests.
ROSA called small but vital socially-distanced protests in several cities north and south calling for emergency action against the “shadow pandemic” – the explosion of gender violence during the Covid crisis – following the murder of Sarah Everard (and the police repression at her vigil in London). They highlighted the stark increases in the incidence of gender-based violence worldwide and that women and trans people are expected to restrict their movements and lives in order to stay safe!
Stop criminalising safe protests!
Since the ROSA protests, at least three women on this island have been victims of femicide. During the pandemic, gender violence soared worldwide and in the South calls to Gardaí increased by 25% in one quarter and to Women’s Aid by 43%. Similarly, in the North calls relating to gender violence have been at the highest level since records began. It was already extremely difficult for women to leave abusive relationships due to lack of supports and a housing crisis, but they had no escape in lockdown.
Out of all the gatherings that caused public outrage during Covid, the state in the South is choosing to use the Public Health Act to prosecute ROSA for highlighting a public health and safety issue for women. No prosecutions were taken by police against far-right Covid-deniers who did not take any health precautions. Instead, the state is prosecuting women and young people who took part in stationary, safe, socially distant standouts on the essential issue of the huge spike in gender-based violence.
Prosecute perpetrators instead!
More than 3,000 domestic violence 999 calls were ‘cancelled’ by the Gardaí, further exposing that gender-based violence is a low priority in this society. The state was rolling out expensive ad campaigns urging people to come forward about intimate partner abuse, yet the Gardaí weren’t even responding to emergency calls! When women and men in these situations took the difficult and dangerous decision to call for emergency help, it wasn’t there.
Meanwhile, Gardaí turned out in huge numbers to carry women workers off Debenhams picket lines. Yet they have chosen to prosecute a ROSA activist in relation to a protest against femicide and gender violence.
Fight the fines
ROSA will mount a full challenge to these prosecutions and are seeking support, including financially, from the public. There has to be a fundamental right to protest. As long as it’s done safely we must continue to protest important issues. Victories in recent years have shown us progress is only won when it is forced onto the political agenda from below. We say:
- Drop the charges against ROSA activists who have been fined for safe, socially distanced protests highlighting the shadow pandemic of gender-based violence
- Defend the right to protest! The right to safe protest, even in extreme circumstances, has to be protected.
- Fund refuges & domestic violence services! Immediate trebling of the funding to refuges, domestic violence services, rape crisis services and mental health supports for survivors of gender violence.