Last Saturday (March 13), thousands of people attended vigils across the country in memory of Sarah Everard, galvanised by the urgent demand that women should be able to walk the streets without fear of violence. As night fell, the Metropolitan Police began to storm the event in London, manhandling attendees and trampling on flowers laid in Sarah’s memory. It served as yet another painful confirmation that the threat of state-sanctioned violence is still an ever-present reality.
A High Court ruled that the #ReclaimTheseStreets vigil organised to take place on Clapham Common was not inherently “unlawful” under coronavirus regulations, but refused to intervene directly in the case. Despite this, the Metropolitan Police stood by their decision that attending the vigil would be unlawful and that organisers would risk £10,000 fines each if the event were to go ahead.
While the official event was cancelled, hundreds did still attend to show their respect, led by the activist group, Sisters Uncut. It started as a sombre affair as thousands gathered at the bandstand, joining in a minutes silence to remember Sarah Everard.
As a serving Metropolitan Police officer appeared in court charged with the kidnapping and murder of Sarah Everard, his fellow officers descended on Clapham Common, arresting several women present at the vigil. Chants of “who killed Sarah, you killed Sarah” erupted as more police arrived.
A speaker on a megaphone said: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom, it is our duty to win, we must love and support each other, we have nothing but to lose but our chains”. Videos from the event show several male officers pinning women to the ground as they were arrested despite the pleas of attendees for the police to leave.
The excessive force and brutality of the Metropolitan Police’s actions in escalating what had been a peaceful event has face condemnation across the political spectrum in the UK, with many calling for the resignation of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick. Without real structural change, however, we are unlikely to see a culture shift in the Metropolitan Police that won’t result in these horrific scenes repeated just as they were during last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests.
Our photographer Theo McInnes went to document a peaceful vigil for Sarah Everard on Clapham Common. He ended up capturing a stark display of a police force drunk on power, as they shamelessly and aggressively broke up the event.
Follow Sisters Uncut on Twitter.
Follow Theo McInnes on Instagram.