Content Warning: This article contains news content relating to the recent Sarah Everard case and other cases of violence against women.
IFemSoc and Bristol Students’ Union have issued statements condemning the behaviour of those who attempted to disrupt the online vigil by ‘zoom-bombing.’
The online vigil, hosted last Wednesday by the University’s Intersectional Feminist Society to promote a safe space of solidarity and promote participation in online activism, was attended by approximately 60 people.
The vigil was organised in memory of Sarah Everard, who disappeared while walking home in South London last week.
Whilst the event was organised as means to provide a safe space to allow for people to share feelings and thoughts, it was interrupted by people who joined the online vigil and ‘zoom-bombed’ it, making offensive remarks.
Following the event, Bristol IFemSoc have said they are working with the Students’ Union and the University to investigate disruption from so-called ‘Zoom-bombers,’ who disrupted the vigil.
In a statement, Bristol IFemSoc have said: ‘Disrespect and 'Zoom-bombing' will never be tolerated, especially in such a poignant and important event, and we are working with the University of Bristol to make sure those responsible are held to account promptly.
‘This is yet another example of spaces for women and oppressed minorities being made unsafe by the actions of a few violent individuals.’
Speaking to Epigram, organisers of the vigil elaborated that ‘the Zoom-bombing incident only further highlights that male violence against women is not taken seriously by our society.
‘The University and SU are supporting us fully in finding those who were responsible, and we think it is important not to brush off their actions as merely a joke or a prank. This was a violent act against a space for our grief and solidarity; there are many other perceived jokes or comments that have very real effects on the safety of women and oppressed genders.’
They also stressed that ‘we do not want the conversation to be de-railed by these individuals, and we also wanted to note that many men and allies attended the event peacefully and wanted to learn. This is what we would rather highlight from the event.’
The event had begun with a two minute silence for Everard, and was followed by a discussion on issues surrounding violence against women, with members of IFemSoc and vigil attendees sharing their thoughts.
The vigil was then broken into breakout rooms to engage in several acts of ‘virtual activism.’ This included the writing and signing of three letters: to local MPs, to the London Metropolitan Police, and to the University of Bristol.
The letter to MPs (of students’ home addresses) implores opposition to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which may place limitations on right to protest, amendments to the Sexual Exploitation Bill, and austerity measures that may make women more vulnerable to domestic violence.
The letter to the Met Police encourages investigation into ‘the culture perpetuated within the police force’ that allows violence to occur, re-investing efforts into cases of other women, including Blessing Olusegun, Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, and a change of approach towards attendees of vigils and protests following arrests and manhandling that took place on Clapham Common last Saturday night.
The letter addressing the University encourages their reporting system to be edited and clarified, so that victims of sexual assault during the pandemic are not discouraged from reporting their case, in fear of facing punishment themselves for breaking Covid regulations.
Templates for these letters have been made public, and are available through the vigil’s Facebook event page.
Bristol IFemSoc and the SU are urging anyone with information about the individuals, or anybody who shared the link for the zoom event, to come forward.
Students who have been affected by this incident and the broader incidents of the last few weeks are advised to contact the University's Student Support Services.
Did you attend IFemSoc's virtual vigil?