A Reclaim the Night vigil will be held virtually on Monday 15th March from 6pm to 8pm for former Durham student Sarah Everard. The event has been organised by a group called “Feminists of Durham University”, which includes Durham Intersectional Feminist Soc, Durham Womxn’s Association, It’s not OK Durham, Not On My Campus UK, and Durham Amnesty International.
The event was originally intended to be held in-person as well as virtually. This evening, Durham Womxn’s Association announced that “despite the valiant efforts of everyone involved in organising as safe and respectful event as possible, the Metropolitan Police have banned all vigils from taking place”.
They continued: “We will still be holding the online vigil with speakers and people are welcome to still make signs and send in pictures. We are incredibly sorry for the inevitable disappointment you must all feel. Know that we will still honour Sarah’s memory as best we can and pay tribute to the many nameless victims and survivors of gender based violence.
“If this vigil has shown anything, it is that this community will always come together in times of need. May we all continue to support one another and fight for each other.”
In addition to this, a memorial has been set up outside of the SU, with President Seun Twins explaining, “through working with the Womxn’s Association, we’ve tried to provide a space for students to leave a physical mark in response.
“Feel free to light a candle in her memory in the covered outdoor area outside the Student Union, if it would fit into your daily travel plans,” she went on to say. “Please abide by social distancing guidelines, and use the hand sanitiser left there. For the next week, students can leave messages, gifts or light candles.”
Human remains that were found in woodland near Ashford, Kent have now been confirmed to be those of Ms Everard. The former Durham student disappeared on the night of Wednesday 3rd March on her way home from a friend’s house in Clapham to her home in Brixton in South London. Her friends notified the police on Thursday when they were unable to get in contact with her.
A serving Metropolitan Police officer has been arrested in connection with Ms Everard’s death, and has been charged with murder, suspected kidnap and a separate allegation of indecent exposure. One other woman was arrested on suspicion of assisting the officer.
Sarah Everard graduated from St Cuthbert’s Society, Durham in 2008 with a BA in Geography.
The vigil’s organisers said: “The tragedy of Sarah’s story is heart-breaking and scary, but it is not uncommon. The misogynistic violence perpetrated every day is a constant battle for us all. We must stand in solidarity with one another, lift each other up in these times of sorrow, and fight for one another always. This event is open, to everyone no matter how you identify, and all support is welcome”.
Durham Womxn’s Association said: “Womxn’s Association are devastated at the currently unfolding story about Sarah Everard.
“We know many of you will be very scared right now. It feels very close to home. We feel fear walking at night, with keys between our knuckles, avoiding eye contact with every man we pass for fear that he might get the wrong impression.
“When we speak out, it’s “Not All Men”, even though 97% of women have faced some form of sexual harassment (UN Women UK). It isn’t all men, but it’s enough, and it’s very hard to differentiate between a threat and a friend. And sometimes, a friend is that threat.”
Vice-Chancellor Stuart Corbridge commented that “we have today received the devastating news of Sarah’s death. This will be a shock to our whole community, particularly in St Cuthbert’s Society and Geography.
“Sarah was a popular and lively member of our community and retained a large friendship group associated with her time here. Our thoughts remain with her family and friends at this extremely difficult time.”
“We appreciate members of the community may wish to access specialist support in relation to this situation. If you feel this would be helpful for you, please review the services available via our Wellbeing web pages.”
Image: Sol Noya