As night fell in South London where Sarah Everard took her last steps 10 days ago, the clouds parted for one last ray of sunshine.
At the Clapham Bandstand, where thousands had started to gather for a vigil supposedly canceled due to Covid, someone began to beat a drum – its predictable beat was reminiscent of the raft of occasional misogyny that the crowds said he had come to emphasize.
Couples held candles, roommates held flowers; there were a lot of men there as well as women and when darkness fell, for a minute they were silent thinking of a 33 year old Everard, whose only misfortune seems to have been in the streets alone after dark.
Everard was pulled off a busy road on his way home to a friend’s house around 9:30 p.m. on March 3 in this residential area of London.
The randomness of her disappearance and the circumstances in which she disappeared left women across the capital in shock. Thousands of people have shared their own experiences of bullying or harassment while walking alone at night.
The fact that the suspect was one of his officers on duty made the vigil a difficult one for the London police to oversee.
At first it appeared that they had made an effort to obtain the correct optics, stationing an equal number of female and male police officers around the crowd.
Less than an hour after the rally began, officers entered to remind people they were breaking coronavirus regulations and had to leave.
Soon after, more officers – mostly men – moved in and said they were now ordering people to leave or they would be fined. Arguments broke out.
One woman said: “I can’t go home, I’m afraid to go home, I have to walk home.”
Then the scene was stormed with women handcuffed and dragged into police vans. The crowd shouted “Shame on you”, “Leave them alone” and “Stop yours”.
The mayor of London has demanded an explanation and politicians left and right have expressed outrage at the disproportionate use of force, with some even calling for the Met chief, herself a woman, to step down.
Much like the drumbeat, this turn of events also seemed predictable.
“It doesn’t look good for the Met tonight, does it?” said a man moving on. “Just leave these people to have their moment,” he shouted.
Everard’s death sparked this moment – a long-awaited moment of national recognition of women’s rights in the UK, which calls for new laws recognizing misogyny as a hate crime.
Countless Londoners have wondered this week why it took the senseless death of a young woman for the outpouring of outrage to finally erupt.
The answer may lie in how quickly the vigil was silenced on Saturday.
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