Vigils took place all around the country on Saturday evening despite attempts to cancel them, to honour Sarah Everard and to demand an end to violence against women
Bristol - Susan Newman
Up to a thousand people turned out in central Bristol in spite of the official postponement of the vigil. People gathered around a tree in College Green where flowers, messages, and candles had been placed throughout the day.
The overall mood was quiet and sombre. The vigil began with several minutes of silence in remembrance and acknowledgement of violence against women. A Bristol poet read a moving poem that resonated with the moment, focussing on the lived experience of harassment and assault that women endure from adolescence into adult life.
The names of all the women murdered in the UK were read out. Unfortunately, none of Bristol’s civic leaders were there. The vigil was peaceful and socially distanced. The police presence was initially minimal until a police van and two mounted police unnecessarily entered the crowd as people were leaving. Several local vigils were also held across the city, including in Lockleaze, Eastville Park and Staple Hill.
Nottingham - Louise Regan
In Nottingham we organised a socially distanced vigil for Sarah and all the women murdered by men. It was an extremely moving event. After our minutes silence at 6pm, a local poet performed a powerful piece about the patriarchal system we live in, the pressure put on women to conform and the shameful abuse that we receive.
The murder of Sarah Everard has shocked many of us this week. She was walking home, she had done all the things women are supposed to do to protect themselves, phoned to say she was on her way, worn bright clothes, stuck to streets with lighting, yet Sarah never arrived home.
In the past decade thousands of women have been murdered by men. The statistics show that the number of women killed stay the same year on year.
When asked if the Nottingham event should go ahead, we said that women are too often told to stay home to keep safe, they are told to learn ways to protect themselves, told what to wear, where to go, how to behave.
So no, we were not going to stay at home because we have a right to walk the streets in safety. People lit candles, laid flowers and stood peacefully to show their solidarity. It was an extremely powerful event but we must use this now to challenge the system and to build for change.
Manchester - Lucy Nichols
On Saturday evening, students at the University of Manchester held a socially-distanced vigil for Sarah Everard and the many women who have died at the hands of men, or whose killers have never been brought to justice.
The vigil saw about 150 students come together to mourn Sarah Everard, but also to demonstrate their anger at the violent misogyny women are so often subject to. A minute’s silence was followed by a short speech linking the alleged murder of Sarah Everard by a police officer to the overall sexism of the police as an institution. Calls were made for collective action to take on the misogyny pushed by those in power, followed by chants that took aim at the police and sexism.
The vigil, held at the University’s Fallowfield accommodation campus, held particular significance for the students present given the overzealous policing of the campus by Greater Manchester Police (GMP).
The University of Manchester has strong ties to GMP, and facilitates police aggression towards students on campus, for example by giving the police keys to student flats – with police often storming into girls’ bedrooms unannounced.
The vigil, which was totally calm and over within half an hour, therefore allowed students to air their rage, as well as a chance to mourn for Sarah Everard.
Walthamstow, London - Katherine Connelly
London Fields, Hackney - Lindsey German
Clapham Common, London - Alia Butt
This week opened with the celebration of International Women's Day. It ended with the Metropolitan Police directing violence and aggression at hundreds of women who had met at Clapham Common to peacefully mourn Sarah Everard and to take a stand against violence against women.
In the UK, a woman is killed by a man every three days. Though this is shocking, it shouldn’t be. As the statistic makes clear, the murdering of women by men is far too common; in fact, on a global scale, the rate is far more frightening.
As we approached the vigil, the mood was sombre and respectful. People barely moved let alone spoke, and there were many candles, flowers and statements of solidarity. Many women had their own stories of abuse or harassment written on placards for others to read. It was emotionally charged to say the least, and many women were expressing their grief with silent tears and looks of acknowledgement.
It was in this atmosphere that police officers charged the bandstand and began trying to shut down the protest, threatening fines and violently arresting women. There was no reason for them to have done this, and it would have been more sensible for them to have encouraged people to socially distance and keep each other safe.
Home Secretary Patel has made her dislike for protests clear before. She is now attempting to make protests more difficult in future and is seeking to provide the police more power to control and shut down demonstrations post covid restrictions. We must not allow this to happen by any means and we must continue to resist the attempt to silence us.
On Monday 15 March at 5pm we will meet at Parliament Square to remind the Metropolitan Police along with the rest of the world, that we will be seen and heard and that violence against women will not be tolerated anymore.
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