This weekend, I was one of the many women shedding tears of grief, anger, and exhaustion. Protests took place across the world mourning the deaths of Sarah Everard, Breonna Taylor, and so many other women who have lost their lives to male violence. To digest and process such collective pain is an exercise in huge emotional labor — particularly when, in the cases of victims like Everard and Taylor (whose death was also racially motivated), policemen were the perpetrators.
If you didn't catch the news from London, allow me to recap: Sarah Everard was a 33-year-old woman who disappeared as she walked home in Clapham, London, on March 3. Per the BBC, she was last seen on CCTV at 21:28 GMT and her body was found one week later in Kent. Wayne Couzens, a 48-year-old uniformed Metropolitan Police Officer (The Met) has been charged with her murder.
Everard's death rekindled international fury and conversations about safety and gendered violence. Women and trans folk shared stories of being followed home at night, of being assaulted, attacked, harassed, intimidated. Of how these acts of violence are so constant and pervasive that they've become part and parcel of our collective everyday lives. Of how we are unable to move in the world without considering this threat because it is everywhere. It's in the streets, in cities and villages, both dark and well-lit. It's in our communities and our homes. It's in the hands of those who are employed to protect. It was in Breonna's sleep.
We shared tips on how to stay safe and how to show up for one another. We responded to the cries of #NotAllMen with deep breaths and clarification that no, of course, it's not all men, and presented the statistics that prove that in 97 percent of harassment cases the perpetrators are men. (Those stats are UK-centric but women all over the world suffer at the hands of men, especially Black, trans, indigenous, and women of color, who contend with intersections of oppression.) We said, time and time again, that this isn't a conversation against men but of how men can play an active part in showing solidarity.
It also became a conversation about how women are overwhelmingly connected by one word in particular, and that word is fear.
But words can only do so much and, as the saying goes, actions often speak louder. So, action was formulated. A peaceful vigil was planned to mourn the death of Everard and to protest all forms of gendered violence. Women in London, organizing under the Reclaim These Streets banner, asked the Met for help setting up the vigil — to ensure it would happen in a safe, peaceful manner, particularly considering that it was one of their own officers whose violence was the catalyst for the gathering.
Yet instead of supporting and showing solidarity, the Met responded by saying the demo, which was slated for Saturday, would be illegal under Covid restrictions. The organizers and their lawyers then approached the High Court, who refused to intervene (a statement in itself) and said the two sides should decide between themselves. The vigil was canceled, but then Sisters Uncut posted the below — and after many gathered on Clapham Common, the police responded with force.
Countless videos and images flooded social media showing uniformed police pulling, cuffing, and pushing women to the ground. They used violence against those who were uniting to stand against that violence, and they did this in the dark. And let us not forget that London's Met police also treated Black Lives Matter protestors with the same excessive force last summer, but the fascist group Britain First — who ran around the city injuring people and brainlessly Nazi-saluting a statue of Winston Churchill — did not get the same treatment.
This is not a coincidence. It's also not a UK-centric problem. As we all know, Breonna Taylor's killers were also cops and they have not been convicted for her murder. One year has passed and we are still screaming for justice.
After their behavior at the protest (which the BBC tastelessly dubbed a PR disaster), the Met then issued an "apology," which to spare you the bullshit, essentially said look what you made us do. (We've talked about gaslighting and abuser language before at length, you can read it here.) They also said that their actions were "protecting people's safety," a comment that tells you everything you need to know about how deeply embedded systemic gender violence is (especially considering the Met Police Chief and the UK Home Secretary are women) and which forms of "safety" power institutions deem important, and which they don't.
The Met's response is nothing short of a cruel joke. Except it's not funny at all. We are not laughing. We are furious.
It's hard to know where to put this kind of fury. It's hard to not let it eat you up. We are all so drained. But there is some solace to take in the fact that we are not going through this on our own. In the last few days, the Reclaim These Streets movement has gathered £515,197 (at the time of writing) — donations from people like me and like you that go directly towards charitable women's causes in the UK. The Justice for Breonnna Foundation is still going, continuing the now 367-day-long fight to bring her killers to justice and compensate her family for the pain they continue to endure.
This journey is a long one, but if we can take one thing from this weekend, is that we're in this together.
The pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home regulations have led to an increase in domestic violence. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline (US) and National Domestic Abuse Helpline (UK) to find out how to get help.