A Cambridge University undergraduate is organising a vigil in the city for Sarah Everard and ‘every woman threatened on our streets’.
First-year student Mishti Ali, 19, created the event in solidarity with a vigil taking place at the same time in Clapham, which was were 33-year-old Sarah was last seen walking home.
Ms Everard’s suspected murder has sparked a tidal wave of fury that women are not able to walk outside alone safely for fear of male violence, with thousands sharing traumatic stories online.
Mishti said: “What happened with Sarah Everard is – the thing was it wasn’t shocking. It was terrifying to hear about but all it did was confirm what a lot of us already feared every time we go out.
“And having that happen so close to home – somebody who could be any of us – is really terrifying. And we don’t want to give in to fear – which is exactly why we want to reclaim these streets.”
The Covid-secure vigil will start at 6pm on Saturday, March 13 at King’s Parade and will involve a few talks from students and other Cambridge residents followed by a minute’s silence.
People will be talking about their experiences, their hopes for the future, and discussing a solution because, Mishti said, “it gets really tiring constantly sharing all of our individual traumas because the thing is these aren’t new stories either – these are things that all of us have experienced at some point in our lives”.
The news that a serving Met police officer was arrested in Kent on suspicion of murder, followed by the discovery of human remains in a Kent woodland yesterday, has added horrifying layers to Ms Everard’s case.
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Mishti, an English literature student at King’s College, says only “people from marginalised genders, so women, non-binary and trans people”, are welcome to attend.
Mishti said: “In a way, I was surprised because there were a few men who reached out too and said ‘I understand that it’s not my space and that it would be intruding to come along at this point in time. But if there is anything that I can do on the off chance let me know.’”
Policing from the university is also a concern, given Covid regulations.
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But attendees are urged to wear a mask and observe social distancing – which will be strengthened by staying put, rather than marching.
Shared under the hashtag ‘Reclaim These Streets’, Saturday’s vigils for Ms Everard have roots in the Reclaim The Night women’s protests in the 1970s.
These marches were sparked by the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ serial killings of women – and the police reaction, which was to tell women they should not go out at night.
Re-imagining how we tackle gender-based violence – scrutinising men’s behaviour rather than women’s freedoms – is likely to be a focus of the vigil on Saturday evening.