Defiant against the police, a vigil in Clapham Common honoured Sarah Everard and demanded no more violence against women, writes Steph Pike
As a blood-red sun set over Clapham Common, thousands of women gathered around the bandstand to remember Sarah Everard and to protest male violence against women. As a minute’s silence was held, hundreds more women streamed towards the bandstand from every direction.
The atmosphere was emotional and also politically charged as thousands of women defied a police ban to gather together and demand an end to violence against women. The event was peaceful and everyone I saw was wearing a mask and socially distancing.
Less than an hour into the vigil, with women making speeches on the bandstand, the police stormed the bandstand to try and shut the protest down. They forced their way through the crowd in military style formation, violently throwing aside women who stood in their way.
As the crowd saw what was happening, the peaceful atmosphere turned to one of outrage and anger; anger at the brutality of the police response to a peaceful protest and anger at the levels of male violence women have been subjected to for far too long. Violence that, as MP Jess Philips said in the House of Commons International Women’s Day debate, has effectively been decriminalised because of the ineffectiveness of the police and the justice system.
The crowd was united in their anger at the police action and chants of ‘Shame on you!’, ‘the Police do not protect us’ and ‘Arrest your own!’ were roared at the police.
On the same day that a serving police officer was in court, charged with the abduction and murder of Sarah Everard – in the area where she was abducted – mostly male police officers attempted to silence women by violently dragging them to the ground, handcuffing them and arresting them.
We were stunned to see the male violence we were protesting being used by the police against peaceful women. The crowd, angry as hell, demanded that the police release the women, and kept up a furious wall of chanting, then chased the Police across Clapham Common and continued to protest as the police drove away with the women they had arrested.
As well as about ten police vans, three more police vans arrived full of Tactical Aid Group thugs.
As the crowd began to disperse, shocked that the police had responded to a protest against violence against women with violence against women, we spoke to Patsy – one of the women arrested by the Police. She told us how she had been sitting on the bandstand and without warning had been dragged to the ground and handcuffed by several male police officers.
Patsy has called for the protests against male violence to continue. Those in power have shown continually that they will do nothing to prevent male violence against women, and are often those perpetrating it. It is only through mass, collective action that we will end violence against women. The women united will never be defeated!
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Steph Pike a is a revolutionary socialist, feminist and People's Assembly activist. She is also a published poet. Her poetry collection 'Petroleuse' is published by Flapjack Press.
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