LONDON — Some 1,500 people joined a protest vigil in Clapham Common, south London, March 13, following the killing of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive. Demonstrators were attacked by the police who pinned some women to the ground, handcuffed and dragged them away.
Everard was abducted and killed as she walked home here March 3. She was last seen in Clapham Common. Vigils to mark her death were also held in Glasgow, Birmingham and other cities.
“All I wanted was to stand with other women,” Dania Al-Obeid, one of those arrested at the London action, told the BBC. Wayne Couzens, a Metropolitan Police officer, has been charged with Everard’s murder.
“The police action was outrageous,” George McDonald, a GMB union representative, told the Militant, on the picket line of striking British Gas workers two days later. Trade unions, civil liberties organizations and many others have denounced the cops’ assault.
The government instructed the police to prevent the vigil in line with its restrictions, in the name of combating the COVID pandemic. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick defended the cops’ actions. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel backed Dick following calls for her to resign.
Everard’s killing and the cops’ assault on the vigil have triggered an outpouring of debate and further protests.
Representatives of the main capitalist parties have led calls for tougher laws, stronger policing and measures that target all men. Jennifer Jones, a Green Party member of the House of Lords, called for a 6 p.m. nationwide curfew be imposed on men. The Labour Party issued demands for misogyny to be declared a “hate crime,” and for cops to arrest those who perpetrate it.
Prime Minister Johnson announced that undercover cops will be deployed as spies in pubs and clubs “to protect women.” His announcement comes just after a government inquiry into a decadeslong covert cop operation that heard from women duped into sexual relationships with undercover cops. The cops had been snooping on political organizations the women were members of.
Johnson also instructed the police to record all cases where “the victim believed the crimes were motivated by hostility based on the victim’s sex.” This may be incorporated into the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill currently being debated in Parliament. If enacted, the law will put further restrictions on the right to protest and give cops greater powers to arrest demonstrators.
While a number of women’s organizations have protested proposals to beef up the cops and give them more leeway, many also raise proposals that place the blame for violence against women on the “nature” of men in general.
“The road forward is to fight for women’s rights — to choose abortion here and around the world, for access to jobs and equal pay,” Pamela Holmes, the Communist League’s candidate for the London Assembly, told the Militant.
“The fight for women’s emancipation is in the interests of all working people,” she said.
“But targeting men and looking to the cops is not the solution. The cops are not there to provide protection and justice for working people. They protect the ruling class, its property and values.
“Much of the debate has depicted women as victims. But throughout history women have provided leadership in working-class struggles,” Holmes said.
“Gains in struggle in recent decades have led to a decline in anti-woman prejudice among working people,” she said, creating better prospects for united struggles by workers. “The fight to end the oppression of women can only be carried through by the working class taking power.”