Alone in her apartment, Jamie Klingler, an event planner in her 40s who runs the London Seafood Festival, felt useless and a little crazy. “I needed to see other women. i needed people [who were as] angry and upset like i was, ”she told me over coffee at a cafe in Soho. A bit impulsively, Klingler decided she would hold a vigil for Sarah and announced her intentions in a tweet. She soon learned that another group of women were planning the same thing, organizing under the name “Reclaim These Streets” – a nod to the earlier feminist movement. The women teamed up and, in a series of Zoom calls, planned a vigil for Saturday, March 13. The plan was to hold a masked, social-distancing event at the commune’s bandstand, which was already serving as a makeshift memorial, covered in flowers and notes to Sarah. But when organizers contacted law enforcement to ensure the rally could proceed without violating lockdown restrictions, Klingler said, they were told the event was illegal. The group went to court to fight for their right to protest, but ultimately felt they could not proceed without legal risk. On the morning of the vigil, Reclaim These Streets announced that the event was over. Klingler has appeared on several TV and radio shows urging people to stay home and participate in a virtual vigil instead.
It was, by then, too late. A separate activist group, Sisters Uncut, which describes itself as an “intersectional direct-action feminist collective,” urged people to come forward anyway. “We are angry. We will not be checked. We will not be silenced,” they said. wrote on Twitter. Started primarily by women of color, Sisters Uncut is interested in complex forms of oppression – how racism, misogyny and classism, for example, overlap to create gradual experiences of discrimination – and deeply distrust the police. . For them, Sarah’s death was not just a tragedy. It was also an extreme example of the harm law enforcement can cause to women, among other vulnerable populations. Reclaim These Streets, on the other hand, was motivated by a generic but genuine sense of outrage at male violence. “None of our programs have anything to do with policing other than more training,” Klingler told me.
Klingler did not attend the vigil for fear she would be fined as an organizer. Instead, sitting at her dining table, she watched the live coverage on the BBC. She had naively thought that the police would respect grieving women, imagining them kneeling in solidarity as some police have done in the United States as protests against racial justice swept across the country. At first, the police took a step back, despite violating social distancing guidelines. Women took turns addressing the crowd, sharing harsh stories of male violence. By 7 p.m. the police had had enough. They started to put pressure on the crowd, ordering people to disperse. “Who are you protecting? The women answered them. When the guards did not move fast enough, the police pushed them to the ground and started making arrests. Klingler watched with dismay the event she had envisioned as a peaceful memory turn into violence. “We heard women screaming and watching flowers being trampled,” she said, crying. At the vigil, Sisters Uncut had handed out a pamphlet claiming that the answer to violence against women “doesn’t lie with more police,” but they didn’t need to have it; the brutal actions of men with badges got their points for them.
Not all kidnappings or murders receive national attention, but Sarah’s case grabbed the headlines, triggering a flurry of articles and opinion pieces on violence against women. His disappearance drew on the public’s already fragile sense of security, plagued by months of battling an invisible and deadly virus. And it was easy to relate to his actions that night. If a woman was not safe coming home at nine o’clock on a main street in London, where was she safe? Also: She was beautiful and young and white. (About six months after Sarah’s kidnapping, a London teacher named Sabina Nessa was killed while on a short walk. Some have asked if her death received less media attention because she was a woman. color.)
The overwhelming public sentiment in the comment following Sarah’s death was that Something must be done. But what? For some, Sarah’s murder was proof that more police were needed to protect women from male violence. Others have drawn the opposite conclusion.