Sarah Everard case has unleashed a 'tidal wave' among women, says campaigner, as police defend actions at vigil

The murder of Sarah Everard has unleashed a "tidal wave" of women no longer willing to accept male violence, one of the organisers of a campaign in her honour has said.

Sunday, 14th March 2021, 1:27 pm
Women view floral tributes left at the band stand in Clapham Common, London, after clashes between police and crowds who gathered on Clapham Common on Saturday night to remember Sarah Everard. Serving police constable Wayne Couzens, 48, appeared in court on Saturday charged with kidnapping and murdering the 33-year-old marketing executive, who went missing while walking home from a friend's flat in south London on March 3. Picture date: Sunday March 14, 2021.

Jamie Klingler, who helped create the viral Reclaim These Streets campaign, said it had been "hard to watch from afar" as the peaceful vigil they had planned in Clapham Common ended in clashes between attendees and officers.

Organisers had been forced to cancel the event after the Metropolitan Police insisted it would be in breach of coronavirus restrictions, a move that Ms Klingler argues only escalated the violence when people turned up anyway.

"I think we were shocked and really, really sad and to see videos of policemen handling women at a vigil about violence against women by men. I think it was painful and pretty triggering to see," she told the PA news agency the morning after.

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"The fact that nobody stepped in and said: 'Do you see how this looks?' The fact that Thursday and Friday they wasted our organising time by dragging us to the High Court for our human rights to protest and we were going to have a silent vigil.

"Especially today, it's Mother's Day. It's the week of International Women's Day. And instead of allowing and facilitating it like the Lambeth police wanted to - and that police force was so supportive - Scotland Yard quashed us and in doing so silenced us and got the reaction they got last night."

The campaigner also criticised the Met's defence of its actions, after Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball said officers were put in a position "where enforcement action was necessary".

Ms Klingler said the event would have been carried out safely had the original Reclaim The Streets vigil been allowed to go ahead, adding that the only reason people had crowded close together was because they could not hear the speakers.

"We had a PA system, we had one steward for every 30 people that was going to attend, we've had all of those things in place, so that there would not have been any crowding, so that there would not have been any issues."

Having cancelled the event and others around the country, Reclaim These Streets instead urged people to honour Ms Everard's memory at home through candlelit vigils which were observed by politicians, celebrities and the public alike.

The group also set up an online fundraising campaign with a target matching the £320,000 fines they said they would have faced had the planned events gone ahead.

That target was reached within hours, and Ms Klingler said she was "blown away" as the total approached £500,000 around a day after it was launched.

"This is the start of the movement," she said, adding that the group was still working out where best to distribute the money.

"I don't know how exactly to explain what it feels like to be at the centre of a tidal wave.

"But it feels like a tidal wave of half of the population saying: 'This is your problem, you need to fix it and you need to fix it now - we're not taking it any more'."

Ms Klingler added: "It's a poignant day. I lost my mum a couple of years ago. It's a hard day, but I know she would be really proud that I'm standing up to be heard for the women that don't have the opportunity to stand up and be heard, and that I'm fighting against violence against women by men."