• Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

Vigils held in remembrance of Sarah Everard

ByLydia Willcocks

Mar 15, 2021
Image shows woman protesting at a women's march.

Undeterred by the Metropolitan Police banning the event, a crowd of hundreds gathered at Clapham Common in London on Saturday afternoon to hold a vigil in tribute to Sarah Everard, the 33-year-old woman whose killing has sparked a national uproar about gendered violence and the safety of women. 

The event was planned in Clapham Common, near where Everard was last seen.

 In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said:

“We take no joy in this event being cancelled, but it is the right thing to do given the real and present threat of Covid-19.” 

The event became an increasingly tense affair, with a heavy police presence and at least three participants being arrested. 

Throughout Saturday, residents had streamed onto  the common and gathered in silence, armed with notes and flowers. 

Earlier in the day, the Duchess of Cambridge was seen laying flowers amidst the growing pile at the Clapham Common bandstand. 

Despite organisers cancelling the event, the crowd grew in numbers and the memorial developed into a rally against gender violence.

 Videos shared on social media showed police forces scuffling with those in attendance and detaining women. 

Attendees chanted “Shame on you!” and “How many more?” 

The videos depict a peaceful memorial escalating into a tense confrontation with police. 

The Times reported that police vans circled the bandstand, a helicopter flew overhead and police officers tried to stop women from making speeches. 

The Met Police stated on Thursday that the mass gathering would be in breach of Covid-19 regulations and risked public health. 

The following day, the High Court ruled that the gathering could be deemed unlawful due to such restrictions. 

Consequently, organisers called instead for a national doorstep vigil in memory of Everard and the thousands of other women who have gone missing and been killed. 

Vigils, dubbed “Reclaim these Streets,” across the nation, including in Edinburgh, were subsequently cancelled.

A fundraising campaign was set up by Reclaim These Streets as a replacement for in-person vigils. 

It surpassed its target of £320,000 to be donated to women’s charitable causes. 

Following the chaos at Clapham Common, police action drew criticism. 

The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, tweeted: 

“I have asked the Metropolitan Police for a full report on what happened. My thoughts remain with Sarah’s family and friends at this time.” 

 Calls have been made for Cressida Dick, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, to resign. 

“This week of all weeks the police should have understood that women need a place to mourn, reflect and show solidarity,” said Reclaim These Streets in a statement issued 13th March. 

“Tonight, [the police and the government] has failed women again, in the most destructive way. 

“We will keep fighting for women’s voices to be heard and to matter.” 

In Edinburgh, university students have set up ‘Sarah’s Tree’ in the Meadows, for residents to visit and tie ribbons around its branches in solidarity against gender-based violence. 

Everard, a marketing executive and Durham graduate, was found in a Kent woodlands area over a week after she was first reported missing. 

On 3rd March, she had left a friend’s house in Clapham and walked to her home in Brixton, a journey that should have taken 50 minutes. 

Since Everard’s disappearance, women have flocked to social media to share their stories of street harassment and assault. 

The case has shocked the country and been presented as emblematic of women’s fears of security and safety. 

Everard had walked alongside a busy main road, wore bright clothing, called her boyfriend and had still not been safe. 

A 48-year-old police officer, Wayne Couzens, has been charged with the kidnapping and murder of Everard. 

Image: Fred Murphy, 2018

By Lydia Willcocks

Lifestyle Editor