We send our love and solidarity to the family and friends of Sarah Everard.
Sarah’s tragic murder has ignited widespread grief and anger because it connected with many women’s experience of violence from men and even more widespread sexual harassment. The fact that the alleged murderer was a serving police officer highlighted the connection between the ineffectiveness of the police in protecting women from violence and harassment and the widespread misogyny and violence of the police force itself. The police response to a peaceful, distanced, masked, outdoor vigil added fuel to the fire.
Everyone should be free to go about their lives without fear of harassment or violence and everyone should be free to express their grief and anger without fear of repression.
At a time when many millions are being forced into unsafe workplaces, including schools, it is unacceptable for the government and police to try to use the coronavirus pandemic as a pretext to ban responsible protest. Manchester TUC has been at the forefront of demanding more effective action to suppress the pandemic. No activity is completely risk-free, but outdoor protests where people are distanced and masked are extremely low risk, providing people do not share transport to get there and take other reasonable precautions. When the Health and Safety Executive report over 3,500 workplace outbreaks but no prosecutions, it is clear that enforcement priorities are about suppressing protest rather than promoting public health. This view is reinforced by the introduction of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which marks a dramatic increase in police powers against peaceful protesters and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
Manchester TUC stands in solidarity with those protesting against gendered and police violence and defending the right to protest. When women’s lives and our democratic freedoms are under threat, protest is ‘essential work’. We urge people to take distancing and other safety precautions seriously – disabled, poor, black and ethnic minority people are at higher risk from the coronavirus. To assist with keeping crowds spread out we will make our public address system available for these protests where practicable, as we did during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.