FILM SHOWING: TALES OF THE GRIM SLEEPER
Director: Nick Broomfield (Ghosts and Battle for Haditha)
6.30pm, Curzon, Soho, 99 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 5DY
Tales of the Grim Sleeper is an investigation into a notorious serial killer who terrorized South Central Los Angeles over 25 years, the women he targeted, and the efforts of the Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders to get the police to stop the murderer/s. The film has just been released in the US and UK to rave reviews.
“Eye-opening … Nick Broomfield’s sharpest most substantial work in the last decade.” @foundasonfilm “His magnum opus.” Slant
In the UK, support for the Black Coalition’s struggle for justice was spearheaded by Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike (WofC) and the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP). From the outset we worked with Margaret Prescod, acknowledged in the film as the founder of the Black Coalition, and international co-ordinator of WofC. We drew on our campaigning for justice here – the trial of the Yorkshire Ripper (found guilty of killing 13 women in 1980) and our church occupation against police illegality and racism (1982). We organised protests, including a demo outside the US embassy in London.
A police commander who met protesters in LA asked if they were prostitutes, and if not why did they care about the murders “because the guy was only killing hookers.” The Black Coalition has been repeating for decades that ‘Every life is of value’. In London, we commented:
“We protest the double standard being put forward by police, media, and elected officials who say that if you’re a prostitute woman, or the police assume you’re a prostitute woman, your life is worth less … The prostitution laws which make us illegal … are used as an excuse to dismiss the murder of women. When prostitute women aren’t safe, no woman is safe.”
The Yorkshire Ripper case showed the same disregard for life here in the UK. When prosecuting, the late Attorney General Michael Havers (whose sister Butler-Sloss recently had to resign from the Westminster child abuse inquiry) said: “Some were prostitutes, but perhaps the saddest part of this case is that some were not.”
Since then, there’ve been many serial murders – in Ipswich, Bradford, the Midlands … Police estimate that over 200 sex workers were murdered in one 10-year period; many of these cases remain unsolved. Instead, police target sex workers. Last year Mariana Popa, a Romanian woman, was murdered in East London in the wake of a police crackdown.
With our sister organisation US PROS, which also supported the Black Coalition, and others, we are campaigning to end criminalisation. Through our efforts, a recent drive to criminalise clients was defeated in Parliament – hundreds of people wrote in concerned that it would endanger sex workers by driving prostitution underground and preventing women coming forward to report rape and other violence.
The treatment of rape victims in Rochdale, Rotherham and elsewhere, the deaths of predominantly Black people in custody, the growing impoverishment of women and children while the 1% get richer, prove that campaigning against the devaluing of our lives, whatever the excuse, is needed now as much as ever.