100 signatures reached
To: Director of Public Prosecutions and the Minister for Justice
Activist Charged for Standout on Gender Violence : Defend the Right to Protest!
We call for
* Dropping the charges against our activists who have been fined for safe, socially distanced protests highlighting the shadow pandemic of gender based violence.
* The COVID 19 pandemic has exposed the fundamental inequality and deep-seeded political issues inherent to the capitalist system. Workers and activists focused on issues such as workers' rights and safety, anti-racism, and systemic sexism have been forced to gather safely outdoors in public to place pressure on those in power to act. The right to safe protest, even in extreme circumstances, has to be protected.
* Immediate trebling of the funding to refuges and domestic violence services.
Why is this important?
In the first known charge of its kind under Covid health regulations, members of ROSA, Socialist Feminist Movement, have been fined up to 500 euro and face prosecution over safe, outdoor protests highlighting gender violence during the pandemic. A recent report found Gardai failed to respond to thousands of domestic violence 999 calls — yet advocates and activists are being taken to court.
A Limerick woman is the first to face court for being an “organiser” of a small socially distant standout calling for emergency action against rising levels of violence against women, known as the ‘shadow pandemic.’
Aislinn O’Keeffe, a Limerick ROSA member, is being charged with being an “Event Organiser” on Thomas Street under the Public Health Act. The ‘Event’ was in fact a stationary protest involving 10 people, mainly women, following the murder of Sarah Everard, which highlighted the restrictions women must self impose to avoid violence and the stark increases in the incidence of gender based violence worldwide. The standout was the smallest of five called by ROSA in a number of cities.
Aislinn O’Keeffe explained : “ROSA fully supports public health measures — but the shocking rise in violence against women is in itself a public health emergency.
“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 Ireland calls to Gardai increased by 25% in one quarter and to Women’s Aid by 43% . 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.
“Services nationally are at breaking point. Refuges such as ADAPT in Limerick are at full capacity and must fundraise to maintain services. We protested that day for the 19 women SAFE Ireland says sought help for the first time, for the seven women turned away from refuges that day. What about their safety in the pandemic?
Speaking on behalf of ROSA, former TD Ruth Coppinger, said it was incredible that of all the gatherings that caused public outrage during Covid, the state 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 Gardai under this law for Golfgate, an indoor event attended by the well-connected in society. Nor was any taken against far right covid deniers who marched without any health precautions. Dublin footballers who gathered for training have also been told there’ll be no prosecutions. Instead, the state is prosecuting women and young people who took part in stationary and socially distant standouts that were fully Covid19 compliant and on an essential issue of the huge spike in gender based violence.
“When this legislation was introduced, it would clearly have been seen as designed to target dangerous, indoor or crowded events where public health was being flagrantly ignored, not a symbolic standout on gender violence. .
“Two young people are also being fined for attending the standout at the Spire in Dublin under the non essential travel grounds. Ironically, they were two young men acting as covid safety stewards on the day. No other ‘event organiser’ charges have thus far been received for the larger protests in Dublin, Cork and Galway.
“ROSA will mount a full challenge to these prosecutions. We will seek support, including financially, from the public. We call on the state to withdraw these charges. We also want answers from the political establishment as to why legislation designed to protect public health is being completely misapplied when clearly no threat to public health existed.
“The government is maintaining this legislation til November. There has to be a constitutional right to protest, as long as it’s done safely. Are we stay hidden and silent on important issues throughout the pandemic?