The Executive Committee members of Cambridge UCU offer our deepest condolences to the family of Sarah Everard, who was murdered last week. A serving member of the London Metropolitan police has now been charged in connection with her death. We understand and sympathise with the desire of #ReclaimTheseStreets, and other organisations across the country, to hold socially distanced vigils in memory of Sarah, and are saddened by yesterday’s High Court decision which declined to state whether such events could be permitted under current coronavirus regulations.
We believe that the failure of the police to facilitate the vigils in a safe and legal way is particularly disappointing given that the chief suspect in this case is a police officer. Not only does Sarah’s killing represent the most extreme form of the routine violence enacted by men against women and sexual and gender minorities; it is also an example of the immense power that the police wield and which has historically been used against poor and racialised groups, as we noted last year at the time of police killings of Black American and British people.
We draw attention to the culture of impunity which exists in law enforcement in the UK. In 2018 the Centre for Women’s Justice charged that UK police have been allowed to “abuse with impunity in the ‘locker room’ culture” of law enforcement in Britain and, according to a Guardian report in 2019, “police employees accused of domestic abuse are a third less likely to be convicted than are the general public. Fewer than a quarter of complaints resulted in disciplinary action.”
Therefore we reiterate our call to end police brutality, immunity, and privilege. We call for the abolition of the criminalisation and surveillance of racial, gender, and sexual minorities. We demand that the government redouble its efforts to end violence against women, including transwomen, in both the domestic and public spheres. And we stand in solidarity with #ReclaimTheseStreets on this issue.