Vigil for Sarah Everard, St. Peter's Square, Manchester, 14th March 2021. Photo: Chris Neville Vigil for Sarah Everard, St. Peter's Square, Manchester, 14th March 2021. Photo: Chris Neville

Women in Manchester will not be silenced, argues Lucy Nichols, in this report from the vigil

Today hundreds of people gathered in St Peters square to hold an emotional vigil for Sarah Everard, the woman who is alleged to have been murdered by a police officer last week.

In what was a largely spontaneous vigil, with minimal organisation, attendees held a minute’s silence to remember all the women who die at the hands of men, particularly those whose killers haven’t been brought to justice or have been killed by the police.

There was minimal police presence, as it appears Greater Manchester Police have decided not to follow in the footsteps of the Metropolitan Police and aggressively suppress those mourning the tragic death of a woman walking home.

Speeches began slowly, as a few local activists and socialists spoke about the true nature of the police; how the struggles against sexism, racism and homophobia are all linked, and how it is only through collective struggle that change can happen.

The average age of the speakers then lowered dramatically, as young women took turns sharing their own experiences of sexual assault, domestic violence and rape as well as their encounters with the police.

Interspersed with chants that took aim at the police and the government, the vigil became incredibly emotive as woman after woman spoke about her experience with sexual assault – many of whom admitted that they had never shared their story with anyone, or even spoken about it out loud.

Many women admitted that they had never attended a similar vigil or a protest before, and many took to stage without having planned anything to say.

The deeply emotional vigil had a truly radical edge, as many speakers made it abundantly clear that their anger extended beyond the men who had assaulted, abused or raped them to the police, who all-to-often fail to take reports of sexual assault or domestic violence at all seriously.

Anger was also directed at the government, for pushing the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill – and at the Labour party and Keir Starmer for not doing enough to stop this.

Like the rest of the country, it does not look like the women of Manchester will stop fighting the violent sexism of the police force (and wider society) any time soon. It remains to be seen where this wave of protests will go, but it is crucial that we continue to fight for an end to the virulent misogyny that women all over the world are subject to, and which comes from the very top of society.

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