Demonstrators took the opportunity of the Suffragette film premiere in London on Wednesday night to protest domestic violence and cuts to women’s services. Plumes of purple and green smoke were released (the colours of the militant Women’s Social and Political Union, formed in Britian in 1903 to campaign for women’s rights) and placards were held aloft, including one that read “Dead women can’t vote”. A breakaway group jumped the barricades and lay prone, like corpses — albeit chanting ones — on the red carpet for the opening night of the London Film Festival (LFF). Janelle Brown of Sisters Uncut, the group behind the demonstration, told the BBC: “Two women each week are killed in Britain because of domestic violence. Austerity reduces women’s access to legal aid and support services. The most drastic cuts were to specialist services. We’re a direct action group and we know that was the tactic the suffragettes used too.”
Two of the film’s stars, Helena Bonham Carter and Carey Mulligan, endorsed the protesters’ actions when told about them, calling them the “perfect response” and “awesome.” The film’s director Sarah Gavron and one of its stars, Meryl Streep, will discuss the film at the Women in the World London Summit on Thursday.
In an earlier interview with the BBC, the festival’s director Clare Stewart described this year’s program as “the year of the strong woman.” In addition to the inclusion of many films featuring strong female roles (including Suffragette, Carol and In Truth), the LFF has partnered with Oscar-winner Geena Davis to hold a global symposium on gender in media. “It will look at what the industry can do to take proactive steps,” said Stewart. “One of the things that frequently gets commented on is the difference for women actors in terms of pay grades against men and the opportunities for women directors.”