Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive living in Brixton, and a ‘wonderful daughter and sister’, was killed earlier this month. Last night, the women trying to remember Sarah at a vigil in Clapham Common were dragged and arrested by Metropolitan police officers. Not only did this show poor judgement, it was an unnecessary and careless use of force. Sarah Everard was just trying to walk home, the women out last night were just trying to mourn her.
The Met’s chief, Cressida Dick, said after Sarah Everard’s disappearance that ‘Every woman should feel safe to walk our streets without fear of harassment or violence.’ Yet on Saturday night, her officers disturbed a peaceful vigil, trampling the flowers left in memory of Sarah Everard.
The police decided to take extreme action against women who were paying their respects to a woman the police failed to protect. The Met claim they were trying to make the environment safe. Instead, women were being texted by their friends and family to make sure they were safe and not being manhandled by the police – the irony of the entire situation is almost off the scale. The images from last night’s vigil, of male police officers detaining women who simply want to be safe, will not be forgotten easily.
Most women, when they first heard of Sarah Everard’s disappearance, weren’t surprised at the steps she took to protect herself: wearing shoes she could run in, wearing bright clothing, walking on the main road, calling her partner. And yet it didn’t work, because she wasn’t the issue. Women are not the issue. And we weren’t surprised to see that women took every step to make sure that yesterday’s vigil was peaceful. The responsible group of organisers, a number of whom are local councillors, tried to liase with the council and the police to create a respectful and safe event, offering to provide time slots and Covid marshals.