With International Working Women’s Day celebrations barely ended many people will have spent the morning watching the disgusting displays of police brutality captured at a vigil for Sarah Everard held in Clapham last night. This footage shows women who gathered to mourn and grieve being kettled, attacked and violently arrested by police forces. The same forces that Wayne Couzens was a member of, the man now charged with Sarah Everard’s murder.
The “official” reason of COVID restrictions not being adhered to has of course been offered up by the police forces, but it is clear that the real reason for the brutal crackdown on those attending the vigil is because these women were challenging the status quo. Only days earlier the police forces stood idly by as football supporters blatantly violated public health restrictions on gatherings to celebrate a sporting victory. Comparisons of the police response to each of these events is shocking, to say the least.
This abusive treatment of women by the police forces is neither an isolated instance or limited to the UK Metropolitan Police Force. Closer to home, we recall Jerrie-Ann Sullivan and another Shell to Sea protester, and Dara Quigley, three women victimised by the Irish gardaí in recent years, in one tragic instance a woman’s life was lost. Dara and the Shell to Sea protesters were women who were activists, they had dedicated their time and efforts in the struggle for a better Ireland, and were known widely for their activism. Their stories made national news, apologies were issued, nameless gardaí were suspended with full pay, James Gill allowed to retire in peace. Even with media pressure not one garda has had to face up to their culpability, lose their job or liberty as a result of their actions.
It is even worse for those women who don’t have the “right” networks, support, accent or “attitude”, women with the “wrong” skin colour or dress. These othered women’s stories fall under the radar.
In the days after Sarah’s disappearance warnings aimed at women of “be vigilant, stay safe” circulated, placing responsibility on to women once again and reinforcing the culture of fear we are expected to live in. Even more bitter and galling when it appears that this crime was carried out by a person whom women are being asked to trust, to seek protection and justice from.
The alleged murderer of Sarah is a police officer charged with indecent exposure but who was allowed to continue working. A man who committed a crime, a crime of a sexual nature against a woman, and was shielded. A man that a woman fleeing domestic violence, scared to walk home or victimised, would be expected to report to.
Wayne Couzens is not an anomaly, he is another man reflecting a system that does not value women. Well, we can’t and won’t accept that. We say with absolute conviction NOT ONE MORE WOMAN!
Tá Coiste Náisiúnta Ban an CPI