Dozens of protesters chanting “reclaim the streets” and “we are the 97%” turned out in the Irish capital in solidarity with demonstrations across the world following the death of Sarah Everard.
Gathering at the Spire on Dublin’s O’Connell Street at noon on Tuesday, protesters held placards saying “pandemic of gender violence”, “end victim blaming” and “not one more.”
Activists had their names taken by Gardai and were warned they could face fines under the Covid-19 regulations if they did not disperse.
Some of those present chose not to continue with the protest, saying they could not afford the fines.
But several dozen remained at what proved to be a peaceful affair, with social distancing rules observed and masks worn at all times.
Ruth Coppinger, the former Solidarity TD and Activist, urged the Gardai present to “cop on”.
She added: “Be there for women when we actually need you. Not when we’re trying to expose a societal wide pandemic of gender-based violence.
“We’re not here for fun. We’re here because the political establishment does not care.”
Ms Coppinger told the PA News Agency: “We can’t just park these issues during the pandemic.
“Violence against women has increased during the pandemic, the UN has called it a shadow pandemic. Therefore it’s necessary to keep the political pressure on the establishment to act.”
She added: “Women have had enough of having their movements restricted. With or without the pandemic, 80% of women have had to restrict what they do in their lives through fear of assault, harassment or violence. We think enough is enough.
“We need systemic change, we need a societal change. We live in a society where gender violence, there’s a lethal mix that leads to it. You have a macho culture, you have objectification of women, you have victim blaming.
“That does not excuse the Government from taking action now. We need education throughout society about consent, in schools, in colleges, in workplaces and communities.
“We need resources for the Rape Crisis Centres and refuges. We also need legal change so that it’s not impossible for somebody to pursue a rape trial.”
Chants of “we are the 97%” reflected the horrific findings of a recent UN survey – that 97% of women between the ages of 18 and 24 have been sexually harassed.
The group Rosa (Reproductive rights, against Oppression, Sexism and Austerity) organised Tuesday’s demonstration, with further events planned for Belfast, Cork, Limerick and Galway.
It follows the death of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive who went missing after walking home from a friend’s flat in London on March 3.
Her remains were later discovered in an area of woodland in Ashford in Kent a week later.
A member of the Met Police has been charged in relation to her kidnap and murder.
One activist, who asked only to be identified by the name Obsidian, said she was there “to stand with my sisters”.
“The ones that are standing here and the ones that are under the ground due to violence. The ones that are behind doors suffering in silence, or unseen.
“I’m here to show people that we are sick and tired of being second class citizens, of having violence perpetrated against us without appropriate consequences. It is happening far too often.
“Women are told to do X, Y and Z to protect themselves, but men are not told to stop the violence.”
Obsidian called on men to do more to stand up against gender-based violence.
She said: “We’re not here to say ‘it’s all men’. But men who are not partaking in violence have a duty of standing up and educating, and holding their fellow men accountable for their actions.
“Being silent even though you’re not a perpetrator is not enough any more. Not standing up and holding your fellow men accountable does not cut it any more.
“Not having the difficult conversations does not cut it any more. Because we women are scared.
“We don’t know who’s good and who’s bad in each circumstance, because we get assaulted in every space and from everywhere.
“You can say: ‘Yes, I’m a good man. I don’t do these things.’ But that doesn’t prevent me from being scared if I’m walking in the night and you are walking behind me, and I don’t know who you are.
“At the end of the day, men feeling that they may be mislabelled momentarily is not the same as women being assaulted and killed.”
Another protester, Sadhbh McLaughlin, said: “We’re standing in solidarity with women everywhere who have been the victims of gender-based violence.
“Especially in light of the murder of Sarah Everard and all the women who were arrested so violently in the UK recently, for protesting her murder.”
She said some of her friends had left because of the threat of fines from Gardai.
Ms McLaughlin added: “Our friends were within their 5km. This is very socially distanced and safe. We’re coming out here to stand in solidarity. We are all masked up, we’re standing two metres apart.”
A Garda spokesperson said they did not yet have figures for how many fines were issued.
They added: “An Garda Siochana has no role in permitting or authorising protest marches or gatherings, there is no permit / authorisation required for such events.
“A decision as to whether any event takes place rests solely with organisers.
“In all its engagement with the public, as has been the case during the pandemic, An Garda Siochana will continue to use its 4Es approach – engaging, explaining, and encouraging, with enforcement a last resort.
“Any Garda activity in relation to evolving events will be in line with this graduated policing response, taking into account public health regulations and advice.”