LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Protesters stormed the red carpet at the glitzy premiere of the film “Suffragette” on Wednesday that stars Meryl Streep as a leading British women’s rights activist a century ago, staging a lie-in and saying the fight for equality was not yet over.
The historical political drama is about the foot soldiers of the early feminist movement in London in 1912 and their campaign of militancy to fight for women to get the right to vote.
The story centers on Maud, played by Carey Mulligan, a working wife and mother, whose life is changed forever when she is secretly recruited to join the growing suffragette movement led by activist Emmeline Pankhurst, played by Streep.
But as the movie’s stars, including Helena Bonham Carter and Anne-Marie Duff, walked the red carpet at Leicester Square in central London, up to 100 mainly female protesters were on standby with about a dozen jumping over barricades and laying on the ground chanting slogans.
Security guards tried to remove the protesters who had signs pinned to their clothes reading “dead women don’t vote”, with some women escorted away as green and purple smoke bombs filled the air. The demonstrators moved on after about 10 minutes.
Shanice McBean, 22, was among the protesters who said the stunt was meant to re-ignite the feminist spirit of the movie by spotlighting violence against women.
“We’re here to say to say that it’s great that women’s history is being shown in the film, but that the struggle is not over,” said McBean, from London, who is currently unemployed.
Emma Fischer, 27, a teacher from London, said the protesters organized by a group called Sisters Uncut condemned cuts by Britain’s conservative government to the budget for domestic violence services such as refuges for women.
“With two women killed a week in the UK due to domestic violence cuts, there’s no way we can stop fighting,” she said.
No one from the film, that opened the BFI London Film Festival and is set for a U.S. release later this month, was immediately available to comment about the protest.
The protest startled some of the film’s stars but others backed the demonstration that prompted police and extra barriers along the red carpet and delayed the screening by 15 minutes.
Interviewed by Sky News at the premiere, Bonham Carter said the protest was the “perfect” response to the film.
“I‘m glad our film has done something. That’s exactly what it’s there for,” said the actress who, ironically, is the great granddaughter of former Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith, a key target for the suffragettes at the time.
Oscar-winning Streep has said it is “infuriating” that the film-making industry continues to be male-dominated.
The film shows how the authorities are shocked as the women’s civil disobedience rises and sparks debate across the country while the women involved risk their jobs, homes and children to fight for women’s right to vote.
Finally, in 1918, a limited number of women in Britain were first given the right to vote - those aged over 30 who met a property qualification. It was not until 1928 that all women over 21 were allowed to vote, achieving the same rights as men.
Editing by Belinda Goldsmith.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org