Huge protest haunted by harrowing cries for help

Article @ Morning Star, published 10 August 2015

Harrowing cries for help came from women inside Yarl’s Wood detention centre yesterday, as the largest ever protest outside the facility took place.

The Set Her Free protest brought over 300 people to the site in the Bedfordshire countryside for a four-hour long protest, with speeches from previous detainees and chanting from supporters.

Movement for Justice, which holds solidarity actions with migrants in detention awaiting deportation, said this was by far their largest event held at Yarl’s Wood.

Organiser Antonia Bright said the day sent “a message to Serco, to the Home Office, to the border agents, to the government and to Theresa May and all of her cronies.

“You can’t kept these women down, you can’t crush our spirit, you cannot stop our fight.”

Coaches from London, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, Cardiff and Bedford brought people to the nearest point accessible by vehicles. Protesters then had to march for 15 minutes through the surrounding fields to get close to Yarl’s Wood Crow and Dove wings, where hundreds of women are kept before deportation.

Most of the women inside the centre have fled persecution in their own countries, including several African LGBT activists and Syrian refugees.

Speaking during one of the many rallies, Ms Bright said that despite many victories “we have a huge fight in front of us.

“We have a nasty government who’ve been prepared to let people die, who have even created situations for people to die because they think that the more deaths, the more it will stop immigrants coming.

“We’re in a world where human beings have to keep moving and changing and uprooting their lives in order to find sanctuary, in order to find a way for their children to have a future, to escape oppression.

“Blaming immigrants has to stop.”

The crowd broke into ecstatic cheers when a group of masked protesters started covering the fences around Yarl’s Wood in graffiti calling for an end to detention centres.

But the action that brought tears to the eyes of the assembled crowd was when organisers phoned some of the current detainees, connecting the phone to speakers for everyone to hear.

Most thanked the protesters dearly for their support while waving clothes from their windows so people outside could recognise who they were speaking to.

But many also weeped, begging for help, to be released and to be free.