I went to the vigil to pay my respect, I left incredulous and defeated
I first saw that Sarah Everard was missing via a friend sharing a post on Instagram. Then came the posters all over the commons.
Everyone you spoke to expressed hope that she would be found safe, but we all knew that wasn’t going to happen.
We’ve all seen this story play out before, but I think it was an accumulation of fears and location that really made this strike home with women across the country.
“It could have been any of us” was a chant and sign at the vigil. The fact of the matter is the women saying this were right. It could have been.
It’s not a comfortable thought, but it is an honest one and something every female-presenting person relates to.
The people at the vigil should have been able to express this without being molested by the police, but that didn’t happen.
On the walk up to Clapham, I was asked if I thought the police would try to shut the vigil down.
In my naivety, I couldn’t see them getting overly involved. I assumed they would want to avoid the incident because, and this can’t be highlighted enough, it was one of their fucking officers who killed her.
But no, in a vain attempt of wanting to look powerful, they herded vigil attendees together, started breaking up the crowds, trampled flowers, knocked over candles and arrested people.
They didn’t have to do this. The police take a backseat when crowds form all the time. Look at any event with drunk football fans. They only get involved if they have to because they know their presence makes it worse.
The only reason the police were sent in was to intimidate a population who had already lost trust in them.
You might want to say those people shouldn’t have gathered together during a pandemic, undoubtedly everyone who went risked their health or the health of others in a small way.
But you don’t get to heal from past trauma without grieving, and that’s what those women wanted to do.
They had tried to work with the authorities and were denied by powers on high who have shown time and time again that they only serve themselves.
I expected better from the police that night. Every woman there knew from painful experience that the police do not protect them.
'The Virtual Vigil' is a series of perspectives, emotions and poems written in response to the current political climate. As a feminist art collective we want to use our space to empower the voices of those affected by gender based violence. In doing so, we hope to challenge existing narratives and teach men that they have a collective responsibility to speak up and call out inappropriate and violent behaviours. If you would like to take part in our virtual vigil, please feel welcome to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images by Emily Mort.