Protesters gather for the third consecutive day of vigils at Parliament Square
Protesters come out for a third day against a police bill that could critically limit our right to protest
Following the Clapham Common vigil for Sarah Everard on Saturday and Sunday’s protest against police violence and the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, thousands gathered again last night to pay their respects to Sarah’s vigil and protest in the streets of London.
Sisters Uncut advertised the vigil on their Instagram on Monday morning, saying: “We gather to grieve Sarah and all women whose lives have been lost to male violence – including state violence at the hands of the police and prisons.”
The policing bill that is being put forward, which restricts the rights of protesters and allows police to clamp down harshly on activism by more freely fining and arresting people, was announced around the same time that the Clapham vigil resulted in police violence and intervention. As a result, protests in the following days have heavily leaned towards both issues of gendered violence and the new restrictive bill.
At 5pm, protesters gathered in Parliament Square to lay down flowers and light candles at Sarah’s vigil, which named Breonna Taylor, Sarah Reed and many other victims of femicide next to the words “#EndViolenceAgainstWomen” and “the police don’t make us safe.” The mourners were silent, and on the other side of the square people who had already paid their respects brought out signs and started chants, beginning the protest.
Police surrounded the Churchill statue, symbolising the irony of their willingness to protect a statue over the women at risk of violence and harassment, while a group of protesters displayed their large banner with “Kill the Bill” in capital letters.
At around 7pm, the group moved from Parliament Square and down Whitehall, passing the entrance to Downing Street and being faced with a row of police officers. Unanimous chants of “Kill the Bill” and “Whose streets? Our streets” accompanied by applause and car horns followed the protesters to Trafalgar Square, where they then turned to Piccadilly Circus.
The aim was to walk straight through Soho and on to Oxford Street, where the group would congregate once more, however following the Met’s tweets that threatened “enforcements” and the advancing behaviour of the present police officers, crowds dispersed and started to run to avoid barricades in the alleys of Soho.
Officers continue to engage with the crowds causing disruption in central London, however we will shortly being moving towards enforcement activity. Please can we ask people to head home immediately’.
— Metropolitan Police Events (@MetPoliceEvents) March 15, 2021
Regrouping at the top of Tottenham Court Road, protesters marched down Charing Cross Road chanting “ACAB, all cops are bastards” in response to the threatening actions of the police, and drum music was played in solidarity. They ended the loop back at Parliament Square before crossing Westminster Bridge, sitting down at the centre of the bridge which overlooks the Houses of Parliament.
Some spontaneous speeches were called out to the crowd before a spokesperson requested a minute silence for Sarah Everard, in which everyone lay down to remember the women who have been victims of police violence, sexual harassment and who have had to experience the fear of walking alone at night. It was a poignant moment that really put the movement into perspective – the fact that we are even demanding the right to protest and the right to feel safe at night is heart-breaking.
At this point in the event many people had started to leave, and in the march southward past Waterloo and Elephant and Castle most of the crowd dispersed, with rarely any police following.
Since the Clapham vigil the police have mostly maintained a “hands-off” approach, with a few brawls and arrests but no scenes as shocking as those on Saturday. This has kept protesters safer, as well as clearly signifying why they should not be granted the right to manhandle people and dismantle protests in the way that they did initially.
It is evident that this bill cannot be passed if we are to keep our right to use our voices, and we can expect many more protests in the coming days which are leaning more and more towards this urgent call of action. Sarah’s was the story that spurred it all on, and now we move onwards to fight for a better future for women everywhere as well as the right to stand up against the state for what we believe in.
The Tab London will be posting more updates in the coming days, so follow us on Instagram and watch this space for more coverage. You can also find out how to support the movement without attending protests here.