Hundreds of women and girls marched through London on Saturday to demand an end to male violence against women and girls, misogyny and racism.
Supporters of the Million Women Rise collective walked from Charing Cross police station to Scotland Yard, some of whose officers were exposed in a report by the police watchdog last month as having sent violently racist, misogynist and homophobic WhatsApp messages.
The attenders banged drums, chanted and carried signs saying, “Women’s rights are human rights”, “Girls just wanna have equal rights” and “The future is female”.
Many wore red, which they said symbolised the blood of women who have died at the hands of men.
Sabrina Qureshi, the founder and coordinator of Million Women Rise, said: “Violence against women is widespread in our society, yet none of our political leaders are willing to truly take this on.
“We need change. From the disproportionate number of police officers who are offenders against women, to the clear back-slapping culture of hate, evidenced from the locker room to social media.
“Enough. We demand accountability. We demand a total overhaul and rethink of what and who the police are for.”
The campaigners demanded a clear dialogue from police on tackling the issues raised.
They highlighted the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by Metropolitan police firearms officer Wayne Couzens last March and the sharing of photographs of two murdered sisters, Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, by Met officers.
In a video message played to the crowd, Mina Smallman, the mother of Nicole and Bibaa, who were killed in June 2020, said: “It’s not on us to ensure our own safety, it’s up to the government legislation to ensure that we are kept safe and that we are believed when we come forward to say we have been attacked.”
Other campaigns highlighted were Justice for Gaia, in memory of Gaia Pope, 19, whose body was discovered 11 days after she went missing in Swanage, Dorset, in 2017. In November, Dorset police said it issued an officer with a “final warning” after concerns were raised by the police watchdog about the search.
The Women’s Equality Party wrote on Twitter: “We are protesting with @MillionWomen to unite and rise up against male violence. Together, we are saying #EnoughIsEnough on the inaction of political leaders over the persistent global oppression of women. We deserve to live free from the fear of male violence.”
The rally outside New Scotland Yard was livestreamed on several online video platforms and came ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March.
Elsewhere, women’s safety campaigners said “more needs to be done” a year on from Everard’s murder as they joined local politicians to unveil a bench commemorating victims of male violence.
Members of Reclaim Sutton’s Streets, an offshoot of the larger group Reclaim These Streets, demanded “fundamental change” as they spoke at the ribbon-cutting event in the town’s Trinity Square.
The bench, which features a brightly coloured mosaic with a motif of hearts and stars, was created by artists Samia Tossio and Hana Horack-Elyafi after campaigners received planning permission from Sutton council.