Vigils and demonstrations were held across the UK on Monday night to remember Sarah Everard and denounce the growing protest power of the police.
Hundreds of people attended a vigil in central London on Monday night, blocking Whitehall, where Parliament is located, and gathering in front of New Scotland Yard.
Other events were also planned in other major cities, including Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds and Liverpool, and protesters also denounced planned legislation currently being passed by Parliament that would give the police more powers to suppress protests.
Everard, 33, disappeared on March 3 while walking home from a friend’s house in South London. His death was confirmed 10 days later after the discovery of a body in a forest in Kent. A police officer on duty was arrested and charged with his kidnapping and death.
His murder has sparked a major soul-searching in the UK with many women sharing their own experiences of being threatened while walking outside on social media.
It has also drawn much criticism from the police after footage from an unauthorized vigil in south London on Saturday showed officers handcuffing and pulling women out of the crowd. Interior Minister Priti Patel demanded a review of what happened and called the images “disturbing.”
It has also stepped up scrutiny of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court bill, which would allow police to impose harsher conditions on protests and static marches, including start and end times and maximum noise levels.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said the legislation it is necessary “specifically to deal with protests where people are not primarily violent or seriously disorderly” but have “a stated intention to bring the police to their knees and stop the city.”
Reclaim These Streets, the Everard memorial campaign that organized the first vigil, he said about it: “How can anyone look at what happened on Saturday night and think that now is the time for the police to have more powers?”
Sisters Uncut, a feminist group that campaigns against domestic and sexual violence, criticized the police as “institutionally violent against women.” in a statement on Monday and argues that the new bill “will increase” violence against women.
“The current ‘tough on crime’ approach does nothing to improve the lives of victims of violence and protects police officers from accountability,” he added.
The main opposition The Labor Party has also said he would oppose the bill. He said that under the bill, the maximum jail sentence for rape would be five years, but it would be ten years for someone convicted of attacking a statue.
“In the 20 lists, 176 clauses and 296 pages of the Conservative Police, Crimes, Sentences and Courts bill, ‘women’ are not mentioned even once,” said the shadow Secretary of State for Justice , David Lammy, wrote in a statement.
“This is a missed opportunity to address violence against women and girls that has become endemic in the UK,” she added.
the the government argues however that the bill will better protect women and children from sexual abuse.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also chaired a meeting of the government’s Criminal Justice task force Monday night to discuss other ways to improve women’s safety.
He said the government would enact legislation to toughen sentences and put more police on the streets. A pilot project of plainclothes officers posted undercover to patrol bars and clubs will be expanded across the country. Downing Street also announced that it will double its Safer Streets fund, which will include money to improve street lighting and install more CCTV cameras.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism