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My previous posts in this series covered Piers Morgan’s pontifications and the new Hate Crime Bill in Scotland.

Today’s post looks at the Sarah Everard vigil on Clapham Common on Saturday, March 13.

On March 3, 2021, 33-year-old Sarah Everard disappeared from the streets of south London while walking home from a friend’s house. A week later a woman’s remains were found in the eastern part of Kent. Because of the extraordinary nature of the case, the UK Government have since placed a D notice on coverage of the details which have emerged thus far.

The case moved women across the UK to express their grief.

Women were also angered when, last week, after Ms Everard was missing for six days, officers from London’s Metropolitan Police advised women not to go out alone at night.

Interestingly, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan told a radio station that London’s streets are not safe for women and girls:

The same advisory went out many years ago in England when Peter ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ Sutcliffe was on the prowl for his latest victim. Julie Bindel recalled her memories of that time in an article for The Spectator: ‘Why are London police telling women to stay at home?’

Bindel wrote (emphases mine):

I moved to Leeds in 1979, during the hunt for serial killer Peter Sutcliffe. I was 17-years old and had been raised, as had most girls, being warned that our safety was our own responsibility. ‘Don’t go out alone at night’, ‘don’t talk to strange men’, ‘cover your flesh if you don’t want to get yourself raped’. Men were rarely told that they were to blame for the fact that we constantly looked over our shoulder whenever we were out alone in case a predator was looking to strike.

As a response to West Yorkshire police issuing what was effectively a curfew on women, feminists organised the first Reclaim the Night marches which occurred simultaneously across 12 English towns and cities, from Manchester to Soho.

Women on these marches carried placards reading ‘No curfew on women — curfew on men’ as they shouted about their anger at being kept off the streets — the supposedly public highways, after all — by the threat of male violence.

I recall feeling very angry at being told by police to ‘stay indoors’ and ‘Do not go out at night unless absolutely necessary, and only if accompanied by a man you know.’ Ironically, Sutcliffe himself gave the same advice to his sister.

Bindel provides other instances where police forces across England gave women the same advice.

She concludes:

Women should be able to go for a walk without fear or a male chaperone. We feel scared not because we are pathetic, weak creatures but because so many men target us. Feminism exists because women are sick and tired of being in danger in both the home and on the streets. They should be the ones to lose their freedom of movement, not us.

Perhaps Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford read her article of March 10. Two days later he told the BBC’s Charlie Stayt that he might consider a curfew on men in Wales:

Alternatively, perhaps Mark Drakeford saw Baroness Jones (Green) advocate such a measure the day before in the House of Lords:

Guido Fawkes saw a potential problem with that (emphasis in the original):

The Green Party also backs gender self-identification for all so Guido can already think of one loophole in Jenny’s plan…

Some of Sarah Everard’s friends had the idea of organising a vigil for her at Clapham Common, through which she walked on her way home on March 3. They decided to cancel it.

However, a vigil did take place there, at the bandstand, on Saturday, March 13. People could pay their respects and place flowers at the bandstand.

The Duchess of Cambridge went to pay her respects with a bouquet that afternoon.

As the sun set, what was a quiet day of reflection and grief turned into something else. Protesters gathered, as did the Metropolitan Police.

The BBC’s Charlie Haynes tweeted:

Independent journalist Ahmed Kaballo tweeted his footage:

The London correspondent from the Washington Post was there and posted her footage:

Here is a photo:

Then police arrested a young woman. Reports say she is petite — 5’2″:

I am surprised that a woman of her small stature had to be held to the ground in order for an arrest to take place. Couldn’t four policemen do that standing up?

Reports say she was later released, but the point still stands.

With coronavirus lockdown still in place, everyone who is everyone was at home. Those people saw it online or on the telly.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, March 14, the Met’s Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball, who reports to Commissioner Cressida Dick — two women! — issued a statement, which says, in part:

“Around 6pm, more people began to gather close to the bandstand within the Common. Some started to make speeches from the bandstand. These speeches then attracted more people to gather closer together.

“At this point, officers on the ground were faced with a very difficult decision. Hundreds of people were packed tightly together, posing a very real risk of easily transmitting Covid-19.

“Police must act for people’s safety, this is the only responsible thing to do. The pandemic is not over and gatherings of people from right across London and beyond, are still not safe.

“Those who gathered were spoken to by officers on a number of occasions and over an extended period of time. We repeatedly encouraged those who were there to comply with the law and leave. Regrettably, a small minority of people began chanting at officers, pushing and throwing items.

“After speaking with officers, the vast majority of people quickly left. Four arrests have been made for public order offences and for breaches of the Health Protection Regulations.

Part of the reason I am speaking to you tonight is because we accept that the actions of our officers have been questioned.

“We absolutely did not want to be in a position where enforcement action was necessary. But we were placed in this position because of the overriding need to protect people’s safety.

“Let me end by saying that across the Met, we review every single event that we police to see if there are lessons that can be learnt. This one will be no different.”

The Sunday morning news shows were only hours away. Not surprisingly, this was a huge story.

The Safeguarding Minister (?!) told Sky’s Sophie Ridge that the events were ‘very upsetting’:

The Victims’ Commissioner told Ridge that police had made a bad situation worse:

The Met’s Commissioner defended her men:

But the story and the emotion didn’t go away. On Sunday, demonstrators gathered in Parliament Square to protest the Met’s handling of the vigil.

Two other British cities held peaceful vigils. Birmingham’s police worked well with organisers, as local MP Jess Phillips explained to the BBC. Glasgow held a quiet ribbon vigil. Elsewhere, such events took place online.

On Monday morning, Prime Minister Boris Johnson voiced his disapproval:

However, Boris voiced his support for Dame Cressida in her role (Guido Fawkes has the story and a video).

Guido Fawkes’s cartoonist, Rich, posted his weekly cartoon:

The public, however, thought that the vigil should not have taken place, probably because of coronavirus restrictions:

A retired Metropolitan Police officer posed these questions:

On Monday afternoon in Parliament, Home Secretary Priti Patel gave a statement and paid tribute to Ms Everard:

She also said:

women and girls must feel safe while walking our streets“, and cited the Domestic Abuse Bill which is going through the Lords this evening as the action the Government is continuing to take.

During the debate that followed, Sir Charles Walker said that what happened at the vigil was the fault of the overwhelming majority of MPs who voted for the Coronavirus Act 2020:

He said (emphases mine):

This House criminalised the freedom of protest. This House. Us. Not Dame Cressida. Not the Metropolitan Police. We did. We criminalised freedom to protest collectively. We are up to our eyeballs in this.

I couldn’t agree more.

Walker wanted to amend the law that afternoon to allow protests again. That did not happen.

Tom Harwood, who writes for Guido Fawkes, asked whether police took advantage of a soft target:

Really difficult situations provoke a different response from the Met, such as last summer’s protests. They walk away:

Incidentally, skin colour is irrelevant. Last autumn, the Met bought sandwiches for Extinction Rebellion who were occupying Smithfield Market.

On Monday night, Boris tweeted a statement about women’s safety:

Even if the general public objected to the vigil, conservative and libertarian columnists took strong objection to the Met’s handling of it as well as to the law against protests.

UnHerd posted ‘The police have a woman problem’.

Conservative Woman featured ‘Police at Sarah vigil were trying to enforce a rotten law’. They also posted ‘I hate what is being done to my country’.

Spiked remembered the reason the vigil took place: ‘This is not what Sarah would have wanted’.

The Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said on Thursday, March 18, that the coronavirus laws will most likely stay in place until the end of June, when the furlough programme expires.

That said, they will be debated next week.

In conclusion, illiberal laws bring illiberal — and inconsistent — enforcement.

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