Outside City Hall, around the base of a tree on College Green, a circle of flowers has been placed in tribute to Sarah Everard and women everywhere who face the daily threat of harassment, abuse and violence.
Messages shared in the tributes include: “Enough is enough”, “HANDS OFF WOMEN”, “WALKING HOME AT NIGHT SHOULDN’T BE A DEATH SENTENCE”, “RIP SARAH. Men, please be a good part of society. We shouldn’t be scared of walking alone.”
None of this should need to be pointed out. Unfortunately it does. Many people are talking about a threat to women that is endemic in our culture.
Vigils are being planned for this weekend. In Bristol, we want to be a City of Hope. Hearing the voices of women is critical to that aspiration. And we want women to know that while we would never pretend that Bristol is perfect, we are a city that is actively working to hear and elevate that voice.
It is for our common good that we become a city in which women can thrive with streets, transport systems, homes and workplaces where women are safe – day and night. When women face harassment, abuse and violence, our support systems and justice system must be available, hear their voices and act.
I have been proud of the way our police service has operated these last 12 months. We are still in the middle of the Covid pandemic, the risk is still with us especially as the virus continues to mutate. And our local police have a duty to deter mass gatherings that go against the national guidelines. But from last summer’s BLM protests to the vigils held last week, they have shown empathy, emotional intelligence and policed without ego. That has enabled us to avoid the kind of confrontations we have seen in London.
Can we ask that if you do intend to visit one of the vigils, you keep that also in mind, engage in Covid safe behaviours and help us ensure the focus remains on the safety of women.
Our city leadership is committed to helping Bristol become a city in which mums and daughters, sisters and aunts, grandmothers and goddaughters can be free of fear.