What was supposed to be a peaceful vigil held for Sarah Everard, the young woman who was believed to be murdered by a UK police officer, ended in the arrest of several attendees after a standoff between protesters and British Authorities on March 13th.
Several vigils had been organized all around Britain, including one in Clapham Common park, the area where Sarah was last seen before going missing the night of March 3rd, 2021. After increasing pressure from British police, organizers were forced to cancel the event. Despite this, many people still decided to attend the vigil. Earlier in the day the crowd was very small, with attendees, including Kate Middleton, laying flowers by a memorial made for Sarah in the park and paying their respects.
By 6PM, the vigil saw a huge wave of supporters pour in. At one point there was believed to be close to 500 people in attendance. At this point, police had arrived in an attempt to shut down the event and disperse the crowd, issuing warnings of violating COVID-19 protocol. When the protesters refused to leave, authorities began physically and aggressively removing people from the crowd, which resulted in a confrontation between the 2 groups, inevitably turning the vigil into an anti-violence protest. The situation ended in the arrests of several people.
The tension between protesters and British authorities stems from public disappointment of police handling of cases related to women’s safety.
The officer accused of murdering Sarah Everard, Wayne Couzens, had previously been accused of exposing himself at a fast food restaurant on February 28th of this year, and a report was written. However, there is no knowledge of any kind of actions taken by the Metropolitan Police service. According to The Guardian, the Independent Office for Police Conduct released a statement saying “The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has started an independent investigation into whether Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officers responded appropriately to a report of indecent exposure.”
According to BBC, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stated that he is “deeply concerned” regarding the events of March 13th, and that Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, despite many calling for her resignation, is “committed to reviewing how this was handled”.
Perhaps the saddest realization amidst this situation is that what happened to Sarah is not an isolated incident. According to a report spanning 10 years by the Femicide Census, a woman is killed by a man every three days in the UK. This case understandably sparks so much rage, especially with women, because so many of them can almost relate to Sarah and put themselves in her shoes. Sarah was a 33 year old marketing executive who was walking home from a friends house, and nine days later she was found dead, only confirmed to be her 2 days later from dental records. Many women have shared stories of being scared to be out alone at night in fear that they may meet a similar fate to Sarah.
The bottom line is that women feel unsafe and unprotected. We can only take small solace in the fact that when these things happen, we can spark discussions acknowledging the problem and discuss options for what we can do to fix it.