An estimated 160 people gathered at King’s parade this evening (13/03)Amy Howell

Content Note: This article contains detailed discussion of sexism and sexual violence, and brief mentions of death

Vigils have been held across the country this evening (13/03) in memory of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old woman whose recent death has sparked renewed discussions around the issues of harassment and violence against women.

Remains found in Ashford, Kent on Wednesday (10/03) were identified as Everard’s yesterday (12/03), after she was kidnapped on March 3rd while walking home to Brixton from a friend’s house in Clapham. Wayne Couzens, a former Metropolitan Police officer, has appeared in court today (13/03) and been charged for her murder.

An online vigil was held after the High Court ruled that the vigils would be breaking the law due to coronavirus restrictions, although residents and students in Cambridge nonetheless gathered around King’s Parade in a show of solidarity.

A march took place in Cambridge earlier this evening, videos seen by Varsity confirmed, with police vans and officers visible in these clips.

One Cambridge resident who was involved in the march told Varsity that approximately 160 people were present, and said that “witness[ing] women feel the strength and courage to join us...really showcased the passion that we all feel.” They also described the events as “incredibly powerful,” adding that “there is no stronger message than standing together.”

When asked about the police response, they told Varsity that: “The police were present but treated the Vigil with respect. Two female officers even approached me to say that they were in support of what we were doing and, as women understand why we were present at Kings Parade.”

Signs and flowers have been placed along King’s parade, with messages of solidarity with Sarah Everard and women who have been subject to violence. One of these messages read: “For Sarah Everard, and all the other beautiful voices of our sisters silenced at the hands of violence and misogyny.”

Another expressed solidarity with “all those killed by police, who they trusted to keep them safe from harm.”

This comes as a YouGov survey earlier this week revealed that 97% of women aged 18-24 had been sexually harassed. This is alongside a survey from 2016, which found that 88% of female Cambridge students had experienced sexual harassment and groping on a night out in clubs.

Meanwhile a digital event took place via BigBlueButton, which was organised by student Mishti Ali. She told Huck: “I’m really angry about the event being cancelled. Protest is a human right, and a pandemic doesn’t affect that. I organised the event because Sarah’s case really touched my heart. It’s something that so many women face, and that shouldn’t be the case.”

The online vigil consisted of a series of speakers and women who, as Ali stated during the service, had “come together in defiance of a world that wants us to sit inside and take things as they are.” A minute of silence also took place during the service.

One attendee attendee of the online vigil said that 'the dream is walking home, simple as that'Amy Howell

During the online vigil, one student recalled how, as a fresher at the University, she was warned not to wear her puffer in public as students had previously been approached by men who recognised the College crest outside of College buildings upon their return.

Memorials have been set up across the UK, with a large carpet of flowers surrounding the bandstand on Clapham Common, and ribbons and notes tied to a fence in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park.

Despite the High Court ruling, hundreds of people have attended a memorial on Clapham Common, where crowds chanted ‘Sisters united will never be defeated.’ Lambeth Police explained: “The gathering at Clapham Common is unsafe. Hundreds of people are tightly packed together in breach of the regulations and risking public health.”

The police approached the scene of the vigil at around 6:30pm, with images of violence and police restraint being filmed and shared on Twitter as they attempted to disperse the gathering.

Notable figures such as Labour Leader Keir Starmer condemned these scenes of violence, tweeting: “The scenes in Clapham this evening are deeply disturbing. Women came together to mourn Sarah Everard - they should have been able to do so peacefully. I share their anger and upset at how this has been handled. This was not the way to police this protest.”

As well as nationwide vigils being moved online, Reclaim These Streets have encouraged doorstep vigils to be held at 9:30 PM tonight. Through their Twitter page, they encouraged people who would’ve attended an in-person event to instead light a candle on their doorsteps in remembrance of Sarah Everard and for all women affected by sexual violence.

Reclaim the Night is an annual march held in Cambridge,  facilitated by the SU Women’s Campaign. This year, in place of the physical rally, march and vigil, a virtual event was held by FLY and the Women’s Campaign. Held on Friday evening, this event created a safe space for discussion of sexual harassment and abuse, with speakers sharing their own experiences and expressing grief for Sarah Everard.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the following organisations provide support and resources: