Why we gathered at Clapham Common, even when we were told not to
Sunday, March 14, 2021
We gathered at Clapham Common on Friday, because of our grief and anger at the senseless murder of Sarah Everard. We gathered because after Sarah’s disappearance, the police told women that they should stay at home after dark to avoid being attacked. This isn’t the first time.
Almost 50 years ago, when another murderer the Yorkshire Ripper was attacking women, the police said the only way for women to remain safe is to stay at home. Then, as now, women said NO. We will not be curfewed. Time and again the police have attempted to control us and to divide us by playing in good women and bad women narratives. But we demand the right not only to survive but to thrive. And that means going where we want, when we want. We don’t care if you’re out at night partying, drinking, or to see your friends, or sex working, or if you’re gender non-conforming, no one deserves to die for being out at night-time.
Many of us know that surviving and thriving means disobeying orders and that’s why so many of us are here tonight. The police have tried and tried to silence and repress us. A sickening response when the man who has been charged with her murder is a metropolitan police officer. A man who days earlier was reported for indecent exposure and was allowed to continue his duties. And when we say we want to attend a vigil to remember Sarah Everard, when we want to resist a curfew that stops us having a full life, the police have the nerve to threaten us and intimidate us. No.
From April 2015 to April 2018, there were almost 700 reports of domestic abuse against police officers. In the 6 years from 2012-18 there were 1,500 accusations of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, exploitation of crime victims and child abuse resulting in only 197 officers being sacked. From 2015-17, 415 referrals were made for officers that had abused their position to sexually assault someone, with domestic and sexual violence victims, sex workers and drug users being most at risk of being abused by an on-duty police officer. And by the way that is no accident, abusers always target those who they think no one will believe them. Since 1990 there have been over 1,500 deaths in custody or following police contact but no officer has ever been held accountable. The police are allowed to abuse their partners, sexually assault crime victims and even kill with almost no accountability. Why was the man who has been charged with killing Sarah Everard not held accountable for indecent assault? How many other incidents have the police turned a blind eye to? How many people, knowing that nothing will be done, have not even made a complaint against a police officer that has abused them.
The police tell us that we will only be safe if we stay at home and get more bobbies on our streets. But perpetrators are in our homes, they are on the streets and they are the metropolitan police. We are the only route to safety. A united movement of all those impacted by gender violence and we are most at risk of gendered violence when we are
We are women, when we are poor, when we are black or brown, when we are disabled when we are trans and when we are migrants. The cops thought they could threaten us, they thought they could intimidate us they thought they could stop us. But we know that the route towards endings violence means disobeying orders. These streets are our streets.