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Aberdeen vigil held for Sarah Everard

Around 60 people took part in the vigil on Sunday evening

By: Anttoni Numminen

Photographs courtesy of author.

“We deserve to walk home safely, to be safe, to live big and live small, not to be tainted by violence. We deserve to feel empowered”, said one of the speakers at last night’s vigil in Aberdeen.

The event at Castlegate was held to commemorate recently murdered Sarah Everard as well as all victims of “endemic gender-based violence that led to her murder”. Between 9 and 10pm, around 60 people took part in the socially distanced vigil which went ahead as planned, with police officers only briefly turning up.

The event saw speakers from the Grampian Equality Council (GREC), Rape Crisis Grampian and Aberdeen University’s Consent, Awareness & Sexual Education (CASE) group share their thoughts, solidarity and advice with those who may have experienced gender-based violence.

One of the speakers, who shared some self-defence tips, told attendees to “always trust your gut” and to be "your own support system in your mind” when in a stressful situation.

Event organiser Molly McLachlan said she wanted to honour Sarah Everard’s memory but also to protest the circumstances which led to her death.

“We are told cases like Sarah's are rare, and what happened to her was obviously extreme- but gender-based violence is not rare. Police abusing their authority, and powerful people acting as though they're above the law- that's not rare either”, said McLachlan.

Caption: Police attend the vigil at Castlegate. Photograph courtesy of author.

She did not notify police in advance of the event to minimise the chance of “pushback from authorities”, though a police patrol did turn up halfway through the event.

“We did have a couple of uniformed officers check-in, but they were very respectful and left us to it after asking a few questions. That was a huge relief, particularly given the scenes from the Clapham Common vigil on Saturday”, continued the organiser who is also an accomplished poet.

Attendees lit torches and held a moment of silence before wrapping up at 10pm.

Torches lit - courtesy of author.

Professor Amy Bryzgel from the University of Aberdeen said she was glad to see a vigil taking place in Aberdeen and that people were not afraid to show public support to “victims everywhere”.

"Like many, I watched the events of late Saturday night in horror. Women with flowers and candles, standing peacefully, were met with ‘heavy-handed policing,’ in other words: violence, at a vigil about violence against women.

“While horrified, I was not at all surprised. Sadly, this is what happens all too often when women speak out against violence against women or speak out at all. It demonstrates the systemic misogyny in our society, where street harassment is normalized to the point where a woman is not safe to walk home alone at night.

“In a week when the results of a survey of UN Women UK revealed that 80% of all women and 97% of women aged 18-24 have been sexually harassed, these actions underscore that we need to do better. The police should be more concerned about these statistics, behind which are real women, than a peaceful vigil. “


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