Following the disappearance and murder of Sarah Everard, organizers from ‘Reclaim These Streets’ organized a vigil in her memory on Saturday 13th March. Despite initial support from the Metropolitan Police, organizers were forced to call off the peaceful vigil in the early hours of Saturday morning. Organizers stated that the police had “failed to constructively engage” with them as to how the vigil could take place while respecting Covid-19 guidelines and social distancing.
Despite the vigil being ‘officially’ called off, at least 700 people continued to pay their respects at the originally peaceful vigil on Clapham Common in tribute to Sarah. Kate Middleton herself even visited the common in a tribute to Sarah, with a Royal Source stating that she ‘remembers’ what it felt like walking around London at night before her marriage to Prince William.
Many eyewitnesses and protestors described the vigil as extremely peaceful until the heavy police presence arrived. Many videos posted online also showed police officers removing women who were peacefully standing on the common in scenes that London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, described as ‘unacceptable.’ Khan also stated that he is not satisfied with the explanation for the way the police acted on the common on Saturday night, as the Home Secretary also said that she “feels there are still questions to be answered.” There is clearly no justification for the police to forcefully pull and grab women. This behavior has been criticized by MPs on all sides of the political spectrum.
Patsy Stevenson, a young woman who was arrested on Saturday night, stated that multiple police officers held her down and handcuffed her “for standing there.” Significant force was also used when arresting Stevenson, despite the fact that she is only “5’2 and weighs nothing,” highlighting the unnecessary use of force. Stevenson also told reporters “the fact that the police turned up was disgraceful because before then it was a peaceful protest.”
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has called for an independent investigation into how the Metropolitan Police handled the vigil for Sarah Everard. Despite this impending investigation, the Met Police chief, Dame Cressida Dick has ignored calls for her resignation, adding that she feels “more determined, not less, to lead my organisation” following on from Saturday’s events.
Sarah Everard’s death has highlighted the clear injustices in our society and shown that there is a real and urgent need for women to be better protected. Women should not be murdered on their way home. The vigil was an important way to both honour Sarah’s memory and call for rapid change, yet the police force did not let either of that happen in a peaceful way, which is how the protestors intended.