Edinburgh ‘#ReclaimTheseStreets’ vigils organised for Saturday night

Two vigils are being held at Holyrood and St Andrews Square

Two Edinburgh vigils have been organised for Saturday night at in the aftermath of the disappearance of Sarah Everard in Clapham, London.

Both are being held at 6pm but the two vigils are designed to encourage social distancing and give space for different responses to what has happened,

One is being held at the Scottish Parliament. This vigil will have stories and poems read by survivors. Meanwhile, the other vigil held at St Andrew Square is for a more reflective and quiet space to allow people to think.

To reduce the risk of Covid transmission, masks are mandatory at the event and those who are exempt are advised to remain cautious and observe social distancing. The organisers have also asked people not to travel from outside Edinburgh for either vigil and that attendees do not gather in groups of more than 8 or attend in groups other than their households. Additionally, people are asked not to attend if they have any symptoms of Covid-19, including flu or cold-like symptoms.

The event is being held after a woman, Sarah Everard, disappeared whilst walking home from a friend’s house in South London. A serving police officer has been arrested in connection with it and human remains have been found near his home in Kent.

This has triggered an outpouring of grief, anger, and fear from women who have experienced sexual harassment or have been scared walking home themselves. Such anguish was only made worse when it emerged police officers in South London had been telling women not to go out at night on their own after the incident.

Additionally, Sarah reportedly took precautions including phoning her boyfriend on her walk, wearing bright and recognisable clothes, and taking a very long detour so she was on a main road at all times. For many girls, this struck a nerve with their own experiences of being followed, catcalled, and generally being afraid to walk alone at night.

The first Reclaim The Night protest held in 1977

The event is being organised by Chloe Whyte, a Stirling Uni grad living in Edinburgh. She told The Edinburgh Tab, “The vigil began as an idea shared amongst locals in a Facebook community group – after hearing the horrific story of Sarah Everard, I wanted to deliver a message to Holyrood, quite literally on their doorstep.

“It reminded me of my own experiences, as I was attacked two years ago in a busy, well-lit street in Edinburgh. Despite doing all that Sarah did, I was questioned by police for why a stranger would want to treat me that way. I’m considered ‘lucky’, which really shows how damaging the conversations are around survivors.

“It’s totally unfair to put the onus on women to change their day-to-day behaviour, when really, we should be asking men not to be violent. Every year between 100-150 women are killed by a man in the UK, and around half of those are killed by their partner.

“After this weekend, I hope we can move towards real change, by dismantling the current system that not only enables, but empowers people in positions of power to use this against victims.”

Fight for the Night, 2019

Related articles recommended by this writer:

• These are all the #ReclaimTheseStreets events happening this weekend

• Women are sharing how men can make them feel more safe at night

• Stop warning women against walking alone at night. We’re not the problem