The women behind Reclaim These Streets and Clapham vigil have announced the funds will go to the charity Rosa
First published on Sat 20 Mar 2021 19.26 GMT
Less than two weeks ago they were strangers, furious and sad about the killing of Sarah Everard. Then they connected online to organise a vigil.
Two weeks later, the women behind Reclaim These Streets have challenged the Metropolitan police in the high court over the right to protest, and raised over half a million pounds for women’s causes.
They announced this weekend that it will be handed out by Rosa, a charity that specialises in making grants to support women’s and girls’ organisations in the UK.
Working with Rosa allows Reclaim These Streets to be accountable to over 22,000 people who donated to the fundraising drive, but also reach smaller, grassroots organisations, including those supporting women of colour and trans women, said Jamie Klingler, one of the organisers.
The announcement came after a week when a group of volunteers, all with day jobs, tried to wrestle with how best to handle a sum of money that would dwarf the annual fundraising of many small charities.
They were doing so after being thrust into the spotlight of an intense national conversation, not only about women’s rights but about policing and feminism. None of them had expected, or prepared for, the attention.
“We are a group of people who got together because we felt sad and scared and angry, and asked if there is anything we can do to try and remember Sarah Everard and all women who experience harassment, and to call for change,” said Anna Birley, another of the organisers. “We thought we were planning a vigil that might draw a few hundred people.”
Those first conversations were less than two weeks ago. Then the police refused a permit for the vigil, and after losing their court battle, Reclaim These Streets cancelled their plans and set up a fundraiser instead.
Outrage that women were barred from gathering was compounded by the arrest of a serving officer on suspicion of murdering Everard, and further inflamed when police arrested women who came to Clapham Common to remember her, despite the ban. It powered a wave of donations from people who felt angry and isolated.
Reclaim These Streets chose not to link the fundraiser to a specific charity because they wanted to be able to support a broad range of organisations.
Newly formed and without professional experience working on women’s issues, the campaign group did not want to commit the funds without research. They were also still feeling their way to working together, just a few days after making initial contact.
But they were under pressure to announce a decision fast, with demands on social media for an immediate spending plan and more information about the structure of Reclaim These Streets.
Many critics focused on the group’s trans-inclusive approach, Klingler said. Private Eye ran a critical report about Reclaim These Streets’ objectives that the group says was published without them being given a chance to comment.
As the storm raged, they were seeking advice from experts about how best to use the money, and almost everyone they consulted pointed them to Rosa, Klingler said.
It has a staff of just four, and aims to get funding to groups where it has maximum impact, in areas Reclaim These Streets has identified as priorities.
“We wanted to focus on access to legal support, we want to be trans-inclusive and we are very aware that grassroots organisations for women of colour often get overlooked in funding decisions. So that was very much our brief of where the money should go,” she added.
Rosa has previously distributed money raised in response to the #MeToo movement, and its work includes helping small charities apply for grants and meet accountability requirements, something larger groups have full-time staff to manage.
Klingler and Birley said they now hope to start thinking about how to continue the work of Reclaim These Streets, with the tens of thousands of women who have made contact by email or on social media.
“In some form, I’d like to carry on,” Birley said. “There are lots of amazing organisations already in the women’s sector, smaller organisations that are run by and for women more marginalised than us. I wish they had the platform we have been able to get over the last week, so I would like to think how we can support them.”