March 16, 2021 5.38 pm This story is over 34 months old

Lincoln women honour Sarah Everard with memorial and vigil

A Reclaim These Streets protest also took place

By Local Democracy Reporter

Women across Lincoln have been protesting against female harassment after the recent murder of Sarah Everard.

Sarah Everard, 33, was found dead in woodlands in Kent after going missing while walking home alone in Clapham, London, on March 3.

Serving Metropolitan Police officer, Wayne Couzens, has been arrested on suspicion of her kidnap and murder, and will face trial this autumn.

University Library Bridge has been covered with tributes. | Photo: The Lincolnite

It has prompted a wider national debate about the treatment of women and their safety in day-to-day life.

In Lincoln, a memorial for Sarah Everard has been put up on University Library Bridge, with flowers and a picture of Sarah, as well as other women who lost their lives in similar circumstances.

The memorial for Sarah Everard went up on Tuesday. | Photo: The Lincolnite

Students didn’t stop there, though. Surrounding the memorial are chalk etchings of solidarity to women, with phrases such as “equality for all” and “start the conversation” written on the ground.

Calls for change. | Photo: The Lincolnite

Chalk markings can also be found outside the Engine Shed and the LPAC, where students are making their voices heard with damning statistics and slogans on the public benches.

The benches have been marked with chalk to show solidarity to all women. | Photo: The Lincolnite

People were seen drawing on the benches and encouraging others to get involved and have their say with the chalk.

A poignant message delivered by University of Lincoln students. | Photo: The Lincolnite

This will all culminate in an online vigil, hosted by the University of Lincoln and the Students’ Union, at 7pm on Tuesday, March 16.

It will be a closed event designed only for students and staff at the university to honour Sarah Everard and give voices to women who feel marginalised.

Ceri Leech took to the streets of Lincoln (with a little help from friends) to spread the word. | Photo: Ceri Leech

Over the weekend, a virtual protest was held in Lincoln, organised by three women from the city who wanted to share their story.

They went to areas in Lincoln where they had experienced sexual harassment, armed with signs and posters, to Reclaim These Streets, as the event is named.

Over 200 people attended virtually via the Facebook page, and the organisers are now planning a march on June 21, when all lockdown restrictions are due to be lifted.

First-hand experiences

The Lincolnite spoke to Ceri Leech, a 23-year-old who is one of the organisers behind Reclaim These Streets, an online protest where women could share their experiences of harassment and abuse.

Anais Higgs is another of the event’s organisers. | Photo: Ceri Leech

This is Ceri’s story: “Not long after I’d returned to Lincoln after university, I was leaving the Scene when a guy approached me with all of his friends and tried to get me to go home with them.

“I said no, but unfortunately they did not take no for an answer, I ended up getting beaten up by the whole group of guys and I was genuinely scared something worse was going to happen.

“Luckily a passer by saw and tried to stop it from happening. He ended up getting hurt as well but luckily this then scared them off.

“The reason I choose to tell this story more than the countless others I have, it’s not because it’s the worst story I have, or the most recent story I have; but because it’s the most believable, so I’m not as afraid to talk about it.”

Another of the Reclaim These Streets organisers, Keeley Valvona, gave her harrowing account of being the victim of harassment.

Keeley Valvona and her dog took to the streets of Lincoln as part of the protest. | Photo: Ceri Leech

This is Keeley’s story: “I was walking home from Superbull by myself in a skirt and heels and a man approached me asking me where I was going and if I was going to my house.

“I didn’t answer him and he then followed me, reached out and tried to grab my waist and pull my skirt up.

“I managed to get away and sprinted home (in heels). He was alone and looked like he was waiting for someone vulnerable to walk past.

“After going to the police I found out it had happened to other girls in the same area and by the description it was the same man.”

Tributes to other women who lost their lives also feature on the memorial. | Photo: The Lincolnite

Ceri said that the scary reality of stories like these is that all girls can relate to them, so much so that often women will bond over their difficult experiences.

She continued: “Every single girl I know has a story like this, and it’s sad but true, that sharing experiences like these is how a lot of girls bond and become friends.

“To all the men who think it’s okay to be silent because you’re “not part of the issue”. Look at where your silence has got us so far.

“It’s not enough to do nothing, have those uncomfortable conversations, ask the women in your life what you can do to help make them and other women feel safer, call out your friends for their behaviours. Do better.”