A furious crowd confronted the cops in Clapham Common, south London, on Saturday evening. Protesters defied a ban to gather and pay their respects to Sarah Everard—and to demand an end to violence against women.
It was a fantastic show of resistance to women’s oppression, and a defence of the right to protest.
The rage has exploded against a sexist system and the police who protect it. A police officer is accused of murdering Sarah Everard—yet police brutalised women when they came out against what had happened.
Even Labour leader Keir Starmer and Lib Dem leader Ed Davey have been forced to condemn the cops' behaviour. That's not because they stand with the protesters. It's because they sense the rage in society.
Sarah vanished after walking through Clapham Common over a week ago. A cop from an elite unit is suspected to have murdered her.
Protesters on Saturday chanted, “Shame on you,” “Murderers,” “Who do you protect?” and, “Police go home,” at the cops. Many had come to remember Sarah, and lit candles around the common.
Yet the cops arrested several women and forcibly removed others from the common’s bandstand.
Protester Janet told Socialist Worker, “I’m fucking fuming. I came to pay my respects to that young woman, I laid flowers and I got punched by a police officer.
“They say they’re here to keep us safe—I don’t feel safe.”
Sam was one of many men who joined the protest. “I live in Clapham just across the road and I thought it was right that I should be here,” he told Socialist Worker.
“People have just totally lost trust in the police. They are supposed to be there to protect and serve. But they’re killing civilians like us.”
There was fury every time the cops arrested a protester, often aggressively pushing or punching others out of the way. “This is a peaceful protest,” said Sam. “But they’re provoking the crowd.”
A court on Friday evening had refused to set aside a police ban on the protest. Yet an estimated 5,000 people showed up in Clapham anyway. And more protests took place across London and in towns and cities across Britain (see below).
“I don’t think they expected this many people to show up,” protester Abi told Socialist Worker. “But they couldn’t have stopped it.”
And Hannah questioned how the cops were treating protesters. “Why do they need this many police officers just to arrest one woman?” she asked. “Aren’t they supposed to be fighting crime?”
Handmade placards reflected anger at the system’s failure to protect women. One addressed to Sarah Everard said that a “society of hypocrites” had “let you down”. Another read, “Sweep state violence off our streets.”
Cops walked around the crowd explaining to people that there is a pandemic and that they could face fines if they remained. Their threats encouraged many to leave—but lots remained in the common.
There were chants of, “The sisters, united, will never be defeated.”
Yet it isn’t only women who are standing up against oppression and violence. And the fury is fuelling a more general discontent.
“People are really angry,” said Sam. “I think the system could just collapse completely.”
Rage at cops on Reclaim These Streets vigils
Thousands of people defied police bans across Britain on Saturday to show their grief and rage after the death of Sarah Everard.
Over 400 protesters gathered on London Fields in Hackney, east London, and chanted, “No justice, no peace—fuck the police.”
Tania, one of those attending, told Socialist Worker, "I am so angry about what happened to Sarah Everard and about the way women are treated. And then the police try to shut it all down.
“I wasn't going to sit at home, I had to come out and it is inspiring to see hundreds have done the same.
Up to 1,000 people joined a vigil at Bristol's College Green. One participant reports, "The atmosphere was intense, focused, largely silent and you could cut it with a knife."
Over 400 people gathered in Priory Park in north London and 150 turned out in Walthamstow, east London.
Around 200 assembled in Brighton where there were several arrests.
Over 90 people gathered on the Wanstead Flats in Newham, east London. The names of more than 30 women who have been murdered by men since January was read out.
Alice, who attended the vigil, told Socialist Worker, “I was speaking to my mum. And she described the same kinds of experiences of sexual harassment 40 years ago that I do now.
“Nothing seems to have changed and it makes me so angry.”
The police tried to intimidate anyone who attended the vigil location in York. As people were dispersed, more joined and one point numbers swelled to well over 60.
Meanwhile, over 200 people gathered in Nottingham and 100 in Birmingham.
And in Manchester people laid flowers by the Emmeline Pankhurst memorial. Forty people attended a vigil in Lancaster. In Cambridge, over 150 people marched to show their anger.
Over 60 marched on the police station in Swansea, West Wales, and dozens gathered in Cardiff.
In Wakefield, West Yorkshire, activists gathered after the spreading the news about the event by word of mouth.
Dozens of online events were also organised, including in Southampton, Ipswich, Edinburgh, Leeds, Northampton, Sheffield, Halifax and Hastings.
Sophie Squire thanks to all who sent reports