OVER 3,000 people massed around the Clapham Common bandstand on Saturday afternoon for a vigil in respect of Sarah Everard who was abducted and murdered after she walked home from a friend’s house on March 3rd.
The man accused of her murder is a serving Metropolitan Police officer.
Around the bandstand, thousands of floral tributes were laid with more arriving every minute.
The ‘Reclaim the Streets’ vigil had gone to the High Court on Friday who then left it to the police to deal with the vigil under the government’s Covid legislation.
Despite the ban, there was a massive turnout.
One of those at the vigil, Jen Evans from London, said: ‘It shows what society is like when “respectable people” can commit terrible crimes.
‘He is a police officer, why has no one done anything? It can’t be the first time he has acted inappropriately.’
The crowd was enlivened when young women from a ‘Sisters United’ group took to the stage to make a speech.
The young women read out the speech from one side of the bandstand to the other, verse by verse, with the crowd shouting the verses so that all could hear.
‘We have come here today because of our grief and anger at the murder of Sarah Everard.
‘We came here today because after Sarah’s disappearance the police told women they should stay at home after dark to avoid being attacked.
‘This isn’t the first time. Almost 50 years ago when another murderer, the Yorkshire Ripper, was attacking women, the police said the only way for women to remain safe is to stay at home.
‘Then as now, women said NO. We will not be curfewed. Time and again the police have attempted to control us and divide us by playing in “good and bad women” narratives but we demand the right not only to survive but to thrive and that means going where we want, when we want.
‘I don’t care if you’re out at night partying, drinking, or to see your friends, or sex working, or if you’re gender non-conforming, no-one deserves to die for being out at night time.
‘Many of us know that surviving and thriving means disobeying orders and that’s why so many of us are here tonight.
‘The police have tried and tried to silence us and repress us – a sickening response when the man who has been charged with her murder is a Metropolitan Police officer, a man who days earlier was reported for indecent exposure and was allowed to continue his duties.
‘And when we say we want to attend a vigil to remember Sarah Everard, when we want to resist a curfew that stops us having a full life, the police have the nerve to threaten us and intimidate us.
‘There have been almost 700 reports of domestic abuse against police officers in the past three years.
‘In the last six years there have been 1,500 accusations of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, exploitation of crime victims and child abuse resulting in only 197 officers being sacked, 415 referrals made for officers that had abused their position to sexually assault someone, with sexual and domestic violence victims, sex workers and drug users being most at risk of being abused by an off-duty police officer.
‘And, by the way, that is no accident, abusers always target those who they think no-one will believe.
‘Since 1990 there have been 1,500 deaths in custody or following police contact but no officer has ever been held accountable.
‘The police are allowed to abuse their partners, sexually assault crime victims and even kill with almost no accountability.
‘Why was the man who has been charged with killing Sarah Everard not held accountable for indecent assault? How many people, knowing that nothing will be done, have not even made a complaint against a police officer that has abused them.
‘The police tell us that we will only be safe if we stay at home and get more bobbies on our streets but perpetrators are in our homes, they are on the streets and they are the Metropolitan Police. We are the only route to safety.
‘A united movement of all those impacted by gender violence and we are most at risk of gender violence when we are women, when we are poor, when we are black or brown, when we are disabled, when we are trans and when we are migrants.
‘The cops thought they could threaten us and intimidate us, they thought they could stop us. But we know that the route to ending violence means disobeying orders, these streets are our streets.’
Two Police liaison officers tried to stop the speakers. When that failed, police officers invaded the stage with more encircling it.
The crowd shouted ‘Let them speak’ and ‘Arrest your own.’ More police were arriving and just after 7pm they moved in, making arrests to end the vigil.