I already knew the Met had abused their power at Sarah Everard’s vigil

I remember being told that we shouldn’t have been there, people sending me death threats and taking the side of the police

Patsy Stevenson
Sunday 13 March 2022 17:49
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<p>We will not be silenced, the police have not protected us</p>

We will not be silenced, the police have not protected us

One year on from the vigil for Sarah Everard, nothing has changed for women.

I received a phone call on Friday asking me for an interview, and that’s how the news was broken to me about Reclaim These Streets winning their case against the Metropolitan Police. I stopped and cried.

It’s such a huge step to show that the Met did abuse their power. I remember a year ago, after the vigil, being told that we shouldn’t have been there, people sending me death threats and taking the side of the police. Now we have a case that says they shut it down due to reputational reasons.

We knew this already though. Everyone at the vigil knows what happened that night. Yesterday, Sisters Uncut led a march from Scotland Yard to Charing Cross Police Station. As rape alarms were sounded and flare guns went off, we could hear people chanting: “Whose streets? Our streets!”

The message that women are trying to send to the police is this: we will not be silenced, the police have not protected us and have actually caused more damage, leading to the mistrust that many women now have.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is still currently in parliament, trying to strip people of rights to noisy protests and give police more powers. Every day I search on the internet for “police news”, and almost every day there is a new article about an officer who has committed a sex crime or abused their power in some way. I used to believe this was a rare occurrence but it isn’t.

I cried at the Sisters Uncut march, because it was a reminder of last year and shone a light on all of the women who have died at the hands of men since. That’s how we know nothing has changed. We’ve had the empty promises from our government about how they plan on tackling violence against women and girls, but they have failed the women and girls who have been subject to abuse over the past year.

Street lights don’t stop sexual assault, talking about it in parliament doesn’t do anything and a resignation from the Met commissioner won’t change the systemic issues in the force. Radical change starts with accountability, with people holding their hands up and realising there is an issue, then implementing meaningful change.

At the march yesterday, I saw officers laugh amongst themselves. I’m not sure what they could have found funny at a “year on” vigil for someone who was murdered by one of their own, especially when since then we’ve seen messages from Charing Cross police officers riddled with racism and sexism.

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To think that police have been allowed to get away with so much with little to no consequences, withholding the power they have and using it in the worst way, I wonder what’s next to come from the Met.

Women are still not safe on our streets, we are still being harassed, catcalled, assaulted and murdered. It’s a spectrum that begins with hate towards women, from objectification, vulgar comments in a friendship group, leading to incel behaviour, power dynamics and then assault. We need to all call it out at the start, the government needs to change school curriculums and, most of all, make sure that those at the top of the power chain, whose job is to protect and serve the public, don’t fall anywhere on this spectrum.

It’s been a hard year for a lot of women and a hard year for the loved ones of those who have been murdered. I can’t imagine what they have had to go through. One day, I hope we will be able to walk down the street without fear.

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