London — As charities and police report a sharp rise in domestic abuse cases amid the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of people protested in London over a local government’s plan to evict a domestic violence charity for black women from its premises at the end of this month.

The increase in domestic violence cases around the world during the COVID-19 crisis has been called a shadow pandemic. CBS News has documented the rise in London, which has coincided with the wave of protests against racial injustice prompted by the killing of George Floyd in the U.S.

With that backdrop, plans by Hackney Council, the local government in one of London’s 32 boroughs, to evict one of the only organizations dedicated specifically to helping black women suffering abuse, has prompted anger.

“This is in the middle of COVID, and we are at high risk,” Sistah Space founder Ngozi Fulani told CBS News. “If you shut us down, you shut down an entire village. We have to say no.”


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The council is trying to move the “Sistah Space” organization out of its government-owned building so it can rent the office out for profit. Hundreds came out last month to protest the plan.

“After a decade of austerity and cuts in Government funding, letting (renting) buildings in this way is a vital source of revenue to support Council services,” Hackney Council said in a statement.

The alternative space offered to the group is one it occupied previously but was moved out of in 2019, because it was deemed unsafe. Organizers say it still isn’t fit for purpose, partly because it’s a storefront on a busy road, so abusers can walk right up to the front window and look in. The council has offered to install shutters, security cameras and an alarm.

What was initially a peaceful protest against the eviction in the east London borough escalated after police tried to make an arrest and ended up clashing with the crowd. Anger on the street brought even louder calls for social justice.

“With the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement coming to the forefront, that is inspiration for us,” Fulani said. “That’s given us the strength to tell Hackney Council, ‘get your knee off of our neck.'”

If you are a survivor or victim in the U.S. and it is an emergency, dial 911. Other resources include: The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE, or text LOVEIS to 22522. If it is an emergency in the U.K., call the police at 999, or for additional resources in Britain, you can dial the National Domestic Abuse hotline at 0808 2000 247.  

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