Sarah Everard was a marketing executive from South London, but the 33-year old was abducted and murdered whilst walking home, a simple act that everyone can relate to. Her death has sparked outrage across the nation, with women demanding safer streets and for men who sexually harass to be taken more seriously.
Following her death earlier this month, vigils have been taking place across the country so that people can mourn. This includes a national doorstep vigil on March 16th, where people across the nation showed their support by standing on their doorstep with a lighted candle.
Despite the vigil in Victoria Square in Birmingham being cancelled, more than 100 people still came to remember her and show their support for change. The vigil had been cancelled due to the coronavirus restrictions, where police had requested people not to go.
A West Midlands spokesperson told Birmingham Live: “A small number of people decided to attend briefly to pay their respects and make a statement on the issues of women’s safety. These people were socially distanced and wearing face masks.”
Around 150 people gathered in Bristol on Saturday 13th as part of the city’s vigil for Sarah. They laid flowers and lit candles to honour her memory. It was reported by the Avon and Somerset Police that people simply paid their respects and then moved on.
A vigil took place in Leeds on Monday 15th, where hundreds gathered to remember not just Sarah but all women who had lost their lives due to violence. A speaker also read out a list of names of women who needed to be remembered. The whole vigil lasted about 90 minutes, with flowers being laid and candles lit. During the vigil, hundreds of people also laid on the ground to show their solidarity.
A 19-year-old student told The Yorkshire Evening Post: “It is unacceptable what has happened and just the other night I was beeped at by men just as I was getting back to my flat. This is exactly what we are speaking out against.”
Another attendee told the post: “We are not safe on the streets or in our homes and the state does not protect us.”
People also gathered to remember Sarah in vigil, but this gathering only included 30-40 people who took part in a minutes silence outside of St Luke’s Church in the city. However, after the main vigil group had gone, another group appeared that were not as well behaved. Leading to three people being fined for refusing to abide by restrictions.
Deputy Chief Constable Serena Kennedy told ITV: ” A second smaller group arrived at the location after the minute silence had concluded and the original group had left. They didn’t engage with officers and refused to abide by the restrictions, and as a result three fixed penalty notices were issued.”
A large vigil took place in Clapham London on Saturday 13th, the location where Sarah was last seen. Thousands paid their respects to Sarah Everard in person, with another 70,000 taking part in the vigil online.
The site had also been visited by Kate Middleton earlier that day, where she also wanted to show her respect and pay tribute to Sarah. A royal source told Hello that Kate “remembers being a young woman and walking around London at night before she got married. It struck a chord and she wanted to go and lay some flowers in person.”
However, despite a peaceful start the vigil was broken up by police who cited covid restrictions and broke up the vigil. One of the women arrested, Jaidah Chambers, told the BBC: “I felt obliged to pay my respects given it could’ve been anyone that I have known my whole life.”
Another attendee, Katharine Hurwitz, said: “I mainly wanted to pay respects to Sarah Everard and her family. It’s had a massive impact on me as a woman living around here and I think it has so many others.”
One of the most circulated photos from the event is this one of Patsy Stevenson, who was arrested and fined £200 for attending the Clapham vigil. She said during an interview with Good Morning Britain: “We were there to remember Sarah, we all felt deeply saddened and still do that it happened so I brought a candle with me but unfortunately wasn’t even able to light it to put it down because the police turned up and barged their way through.”
But the contrast of policemen removing women from a protest against men’s violence towards women has caused controversy and led to further protests taking place.
A peaceful vigil took place in Nottingham on the evening of Saturday 13th, a strong contrast to what happened in London. People gathered to show their solidarity for women, and even a police officer showed her support. An estimated 100 people gathered at the Brian Clough statue, where signs, flowers and candles were left.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire, Paddy Tipping, told Nottinghamshire Live: “The people who turned up are obviously concerned about the situation but behaved responsibly and wisely.”
Vigils were also supposed to take place in other places, including Manchester and Essex, but these were cancelled due to the restrictions. Over the next week, many vigils will continue to take place all over the country, with many now taking place online to comply with the current lockdown restrictions.