“Stop hurting us”, were the words written across a young girl’s face as she went to lay flowers outside Holyrood in Edinburgh during the memorial vigil at 6pm on Thursday.
The protest, where MSPs and campaigners spoke to a crowd of largely women, was to commemorate the one year anniversary of 33-year-old Sarah Everard’s death.
Ms Everard was raped and killed by serving Met Officer Wayne Couzens as she walked home in South London.
Speaking at the protest, Monica Lennon Labor MSP said: “I am exhausted and I am angry.
“We are here tonight to remember Sarah Everard and reflect but I hope we are also here to rage against this system and rage against the patriarchy and to rage against those men who make us feel unsafe.”
Quoting Sarah Everard’s sister, Ms Lennon said: “You disposed of my sister’s body like it was rubbish, flytipped her like she meant nothing. She meant everything.”
The protest was organized by a volunteer-led initiative Strutsafe which started in the wake of Sarah’s murder.
Speaking at the protest, Alice Jackson co-founder of Strut-Safe said: “Society does not value us enough to protect us.
“There is no place in our society for those who perpetrate violence and those who protect it. We will persevere, we will remain and you will not.”
Many speakers also made mention of the fact that much media attention “forgets” the minority women who are killed as a result of male violence.
“I want to go into a space that is predominantly white and understand people will respect my autonomy,” said Co-founder of Strut Safe, Rachel Chung.
Edinburgh Sarah Everard protest: Call for men to stand with women at Sarah Everard…
Asked if more legislation around women’s safety should be considered by parliament, Hannah Bardell, MSP for Livingston said: “Absolutely. There are very strong arguments to end the not proven verdict and also to look at corroboration.
“Given the appalling rates of rape convictions, we have to do something but legislation is not always the silver bullet we think it is and this is very clearly a societal issue.”
Ms Bardell said she would be “open to initiatives” such as YWCA’s feminist town planning project in West Lothian and beyond. The volunteer-based project suggested ways in which Glasgow City Council could improve women’s safety in Glasgow through town planning focused on women.
She added: “Your built environment is so important and considering women and girls and parents is incredibly important. I would 100% endorse that and would love to see the detail of that and see other councils endorse that as well.”
Sally Donald, Edinburgh Central SNP Women’s Officer, who helped organized the protest is keen to see legislation around street harassment and misogyny change so that it became a criminal offence.
Ms Donald said: “When men learn these behaviors are acceptable they are only a few steps away from more extreme behaviors such as rape and murder.
“Although this is not the key focus of the protest by any means, we are focusing on the issue of violence against women as a whole, drawing attention to it and ensuring that legislators know that this issue isn’t going away and we need more measures to both protect women, and educate men.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.