Edinburgh vigils for Sarah Everard go online only amid Covid-19 restrictions

Douglas Barrie and Craig Paton, PA Scotland
·3-min read

In-person vigils paying tribute to Sarah Everard, which were due to be held in Edinburgh on Saturday, have been cancelled by organisers in favour of an online-only event.

Events have been planned across the UK, including in Edinburgh and Glasgow, to pay tribute to Ms Everard, who disappeared while walking home in London and whose remains were found this week.

However, Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman suggested women should find another way to pay tribute to the 33-year-old, warning any vigil in a public place would go against coronavirus restrictions.

The Metropolitan Police also faced a legal challenge from organisers of a London event, with the force accused of doing an “about-face” and declaring the vigil unlawful.

Late on Friday night, Chloe Whyte, one of the Edinburgh organisers, said on Facebook: “Following the decision of the High Court in London and comments from the Scottish Cabinet Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman MSP, the organisers of the #ReclaimTheseStreets Edinburgh vigils have decided to build upon events currently being hosted online and cancel all of our in-person gatherings.

“The tragic story of Sarah Everard and the national outpouring it has provoked has shone a light on how just how many women have been made to feel unsafe on our streets due to sexual harassment and violence. This is a moment of reflection, but also one of action.

“Please do NOT go to Holyrood or St Andrew’s Square tomorrow, as sadly any gatherings there will be dispersed by police.

“We are now building upon our ‘doorstep vigil’ activities, which shall include a stream of our speakers all sharing their stories from home & answering questions and comments live. More information to come on this.

“While this is incredibly frustrating, we deeply appreciate the platform that has been given to survivors of sexual harassment and violence this week.”

Sarah Everard missing
Sarah Everard went missing in London (Met Police/PA)

Ms Freeman said she herself would join commemorations if “we were in normal times”, but added: “We are not in normal times.

“The rules are there for a reason, they are there to protect all of us from a virus that doesn’t play by the rules, that as soon as we come together looks to transmit itself from one person to another person and in doing that also is giving significant opportunity to mutate.

“I will take my private steps, I will light that candle on Saturday night, I will engage via social media to show my frustration, my anger, that women are still not safe on our streets, still not safe from male violence on our streets at any time of the day.

“I will not join a public vigil because that risks everyone from this virus.

“What I’m saying to all the women who are feeling angry, afraid, upset – I’m right there with you, but please do not have a vigil.

“Take the steps that we ask people to do to show how you feel but not in a public gathering.”

Jeane Freeman speaking during the briefing
Jeane Freeman said she would attend such a vigil if coronavirus restrictions were not in place (Andy Buchanan/PA)

Drawing on her own experience, Ms Freeman said: “I’m 67 years old. For 50 years as a woman I have lived a life that aims to protect and keep myself safe in a way that no man of my age ever has to do.

“I remember the Reclaim the Nights demonstrations… I was on those and if we weren’t in the current situation we are now, then any public vigil I would certainly join.”

The Prime Minister has also urged people not to take to the streets, with Downing Street adding he “completely understands the strength of feeling”.