Stormont challenged over gender violence at Reclaim These Streets protest

Rebecca Black, PA
·2-min read

Stormont has been challenged to end gender violence by speakers at a Reclaim These Streets protest in Belfast.

The demonstration at Writers’ Square follows similar gatherings across the UK and Ireland after the murder of Sarah Everard in Kent.

Both women and men attended, wearing masks and standing on socially-distanced markers on Tuesday evening.

Sarah Everard death
Ann Orr during a demonstration against gender violence (Liam McBurney/PA)

They held up banners which read, “end victim blaming” and “we are the 97%” in reference to a recent UN survey that found 97% of women between the ages of 18 and 24 have been sexually harassed.

There were also chants to end gender violence.

A one-minute silence was held for Ms Everard followed a minute of shouting.

Lucy Marron, from Rosa NI – the Socialist Feminist Movement, told the crowd they felt that they had no choice but to take a stand, saying women are dying as a result of gender violence.

Sarah Everard death
A demonstration against gender violence (Liam McBurney/PA)

She also slammed scenes at a vigil at Clapham Common in London on Saturday when police moved in against those gathered.

“We are here because we are all too familiar with the reality that this is not just one woman… we are here because it is clear we are not safe in our homes, we are not safe in our workplaces, and we are not safe on our streets and we are angry,” she said.

Ann Orr, also of Rosa NI, highlighted a vote by Stormont to pass a bill aimed at stopping abortion in cases of non-fatal disabilities to its second stage.

“We don’t want to be standing here, it’s 2021 and we know there is a global pandemic… but there is also a shadow pandemic, a pandemic of gender violence,” she said.

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Lucy Marron was handed a fine under the coronavirus regulations (Liam McBurney/PA)

Ms Marron was later among a number of people issued with a £200 fine by police under the coronavirus regulations, which restricts outside gatherings.

Speaking afterwards, she said: “I still hold that this was a completely necessary protest, that we conducted this in a safe and responsible manner. Women are dying, women are being beaten, women don’t feel safe in their homes, workplaces or streets so I stand by that I was here today.”

She also challenged Stormont, saying local legislators are “not doing enough” to ensure the safety of women.

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Demonstrators during a protest in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

Earlier on Tuesday, dozens of protesters turned out in Dublin city centre for a similar demonstration.

Ms Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, went missing after walking home from a friend’s flat in London on March 3.

A member of the Met Police has been charged in relation to her kidnap and murder.