But a vigil for the marketing manager at Clapham Common, south London, on Saturday descended into chaos as police officers tried to enforce Covid rules on the public gathering.
Yesterday shocked women of all ages made clear exactly how they felt about the heavy-handed crackdown as a protest at Parliament Square ran late into the evening and flowers continued to pile up in Clapham.
On Saturday, hundreds of people gathered peacefully on Clapham Common to pay their respects to Miss Everard, who disappeared as she walked home through the area on March 3.
Organisers Reclaim These Streets had cancelled the event after Scotland Yard rejected their proposals for making it Covid secure. But mourners wearing facemasks defied lockdown restrictions and flooded on to the common throughout the day and into the evening.
Some were young women all too conscious it could have been them. Others were mothers fearful for their daughters’ safety. All wanted to pay tribute to 33-year-old Sarah Everard
The Duchess of Cambridge was one of the women who paid a private visit to the makeshift shrine.
She was seen pausing in front of floral tributes before laying two bunches of daffodils. An aide said: ‘The duchess wanted to pay her respects to Sarah and her family. She remembers what it felt like to walk around London at night before she got married.’
A MINUTE’S SILENCE
As the sun began to set at 6pm, Clapham Common Labour councillor Joanna Reynolds led a minute’s silence. She said: ‘We need to make sure our streets are safe for our women and our girls.’
The crowd chanted ‘sisters united will never be defeated’ and ‘whose streets? Our streets.’ Women, many in tears, flashed the lights on their phones and lit candles as they vowed ‘not to be curfewed’.
Campaigners made speeches on the bandstand, with one woman declaring: ‘The police have tried to repress us. This is a sickening response when the man who has been charged with Sarah’s murder is a Metropolitan Police officer.’
The Duchess of Cambridge (pictured) was one of the women who paid a private visit to the makeshift shrine. She was seen pausing in front of floral tributes before laying two bunches of daffodils
POLICE MOVE IN
As darkness fell minutes later, officers began moving in towards the bandstand to enforce Covid rules banning public gatherings.
One officer could be heard saying: ‘Nobody here is socially distanced, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. We’re asking people to go home.’ It led to a chorus of boos from the crowd and to chants of ‘where is Sarah?’ and ‘shame on you’.
Lily, 27, one of the attendees, said: ‘It was a nice, calm, peaceful vigil and they weren’t allowing people to speak. And it was from that moment things started to turn.’
VIOLENCE AND CHAOS
Campaigners continued making speeches for another five minutes before more police descended on the bandstand. Angry clashes could be heard as about ten officers tried to ask the mourners to go home.
Dramatic images then showed women being arrested ‘all at once’. Katie Bowden, 25, who lives in Clapham, said: ‘I don’t know what happened but suddenly the officers stormed into the bandstand.
‘Nothing had changed – there was lots of chanting but it wasn’t particularly aggressive. People were very angry and chanting, “arrest your own”. It was very upsetting. I really didn’t think they’d be that heavy-handed.’
THE DAY AFTER
Yesterday hundreds more women descended on Clapham Common.
They condemned the heavy-handed police response to Saturday’s vigil. Schoolgirl Charlotte Grace, 16, from Bromley, south-east London, said she felt unsafe and let down by police. She said: ‘It’s absolutely disgusting what happened on Saturday night. The police should have laid back and let people mourn.’
Marieke van Eijndhoven, 57, who came to pay her respects with her daughter Helen Dunbar, 23, said: ‘It’s scary thinking that it could happen to anybody. I have two daughters and I worry so much about them but you have to let them live their lives.’
Anna-Marie Panek, 21, who lives in central London, said she feels ‘overwhelmed’ by Miss Everard’s death. ‘Every time I open my phone, there are just pictures of Sarah or of women being restrained,’ she added. ‘I want to believe that this is an isolated incident but I think there is a fear that it could have been any one of us.’
Jessica Gleadhall, 20, from west London, said the police’s conduct on Saturday was ‘awful’.
She added: ‘Whoever instructed them to start pinning women down really hasn’t thought it through.
‘What were they hoping to achieve? People need to be held accountable for how they handled that situation.’ Last night women wept in silence around the floral shrine at the bandstand. Flowers were also tied to lampposts and trees alongside messages on brightly coloured placards.
A minute of silence was held in which the demonstrators lay on the ground. After dusk fell they lit up the night by holding up their illuminated phones, each casting off a small part of the darkness surrounding them
Meanwhile, hundreds of people gathered outside New Scotland Yard, the Metropolitan Police’s central London headquarters, at 4pm yesterday to protest against being ‘brutalised’ by officers at the vigil. The group chanted: ‘Shame on you’ while holding banners saying ‘Men – your silence is deafening’ and ‘Cressida you’re a woman too’ in reference to Met commissioner Cressida Dick.
Among the demonstrators was Mona Cauwels, a 47-year-old mother, who said: ‘I’m here today with my 14-year-old daughter to use my right as a citizen to protest. What happened to Sarah could have happened to my daughter and my heart is broken that few people seem to understand this.’ Louisa Herring, 24, a student from Brixton, south London, said: ‘We are heartbroken. There’s so much emphasis on how women should behave and not enough on men.
‘Men need to be educated on how things they perceive to be minuscule can make us feel. As our signs say, “She did everything right” yet why did this happen?’ Hundreds of the protesters then marched towards Parliament Square at 5pm holding banners such as ‘Believe all women’.
A minute of silence was held in which the demonstrators lay on the ground.
After dusk fell they lit up the night by holding up their illuminated phones, each casting off a small part of the darkness surrounding them.
Additional reporters: Az Munrallee and Kumail Jaffer
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