Just under an hour ago, the suffragettes discovered that the English Parliament would no longer take into consideration the bill in favor of women’s suffrage. Women could not vote and could not even do so in the near future. No right, no possible opening towards the recognition of female citizenship, this was once again affirmed by the English Parliament.
But in London, many and many years have been fighting for women’s suffrage and the Parliament’s decision does not discourage the suffragettes who, on the contrary, decide to organize, immediately, a massive protest demonstration starting from Caxton Hall in Westminster.
There are 300 militants of the Women’s Social and Political Union parading through the streets of London. In the lead one of the leaders of the movement: Emmeline Punkhurst (Meryl Streep, for those who have seen the film “Suffragette”) and with her friends, sisters, daughters: women. Divided into small groups, the demonstrators move compactly towards Parliament: the goal is to present a petition and try to change that absurd decision. In front of Parliament, however, the suffragettes will never get there.
The police cordon stops them first and, for six long hours, harasses women in all possible ways. Beating, beating, stabbing, pushing, aggression, groping, humiliation. The women are thrown to the ground, or brutally pushed against the railings that divide the street from the entrance to the House of Commons.
Reports and minutes read of sexual abuse by police men who repeatedly pinched and twisted the breasts of demonstrators, lifted their skirts, groped and insulted obscenely. Christina Richardson, referred to as “an old woman”, described what she witnessed as follows: ‘I saw a policeman grab women by the collars, shake them and fling them aside like rats. I saw them take women up and fling them on the crowd as many logs on a wood pile … ‘
Not even Rosa May Billinghurst, despite her severe disability, which had forced her to wheelchair for years, is spared. Cowardly she is pushed into a side street, attacked, while some policemen deflate the wheelchair wheel valves and then leave her like this: alone, immobile, annihilated in her powerlessness of movement.
On that tragic Friday 119 arrests were carried out: 4 men and 115 women. Two of them will die a few months later, it is thought, following the beatings and violence suffered.
That November 18 of one hundred and ten years ago it went down in history as the Black Friday: one of the most heroic and at the same time darkest days in the history of humanity. Because when we discriminate, when we deny rights to a part, we deny the whole. And so this story is not a niche story, it is not “women’s” stuff, but it is our story. The one with a capital S, the one that reminds us that rights are an achievement paid for at a high price and for this they must be defended, because they are precious, but also fragile.
The courage and determination of women who fight against a sexist, discriminatory and distorted use of power, exercised through arrests, the violence of abuse, through hands that rummage through private parts and groped stripped and violated bodies: all this is true Black Friday.
That is why it is unacceptable to see how the Black Friday has become the day of discounts and crazy, irrational, hysterical shopping. Because, once again, we are witnessing an attempt to manipulate history. There is the will to deny the stages that have marked the path of women’s emancipation, emptying them of their political and historical significance to associate them with another event futilely considered “feminine”, but which has absolutely nothing to do with what happened historically.
The Black Friday it was a day of struggle for citizenship, for rights, for equality and equity. Let’s remember, let’s study it in schools and let’s make sure that it remains so, so that in a hundred years no one writes that the Black Friday it was the day of long queues to buy the latest smartphone model at half price, instead of celebrating the sacrifice of those who fought to give us freedom.