Sarah Everard vigil talks continuing as people pledge to go regardless

PA Reporters
·4-min read

Organisers of a vigil for Sarah Everard are continuing talks with the Metropolitan Police to work out how it could go ahead safely.

People have vowed to attend the London event on Saturday evening, despite the Metropolitan Police warning the public they should “stay at home or find a lawful and safer way to express your views”.

Reclaim These Streets is planning to host the vigil on Clapham Common in south London on Saturday, near to where the 33-year-old, whose body was formally identified on Friday, went missing.

Watch: Policeman Wayne Couzens charged with kidnap and murder to appear in court today

Earlier on Friday, a High Court judge refused to intervene on behalf of the group in a legal challenge over the right to gather for a protest during coronavirus restrictions.

POLICE Everard Timeline
(PA Graphics)

The group brought an urgent action in a bid for a declaration that any ban on outdoor gatherings under coronavirus regulations is “subject to the right to protest”, and thus the vigil should be allowed to happen.

Mr Justice Holgate declined to grant the group’s request and also refused to make a declaration that an alleged policy by the force of “prohibiting all protests, irrespective of the specific circumstances” is unlawful.

Despite the ruling, many women said they still planned to attend the Clapham vigil.

Becki Elson told the PA news agency she will be at Clapham Common Bandstand at 6pm on Saturday with her 19-year-old daughter Megen.

“Even if no one else shows up, we will take a moment to remember Sarah and leave a candle for her,” the 35-year-old from Brixton said.

“It’s time for women to fight back, to take control, to lead the way out of this nightmare that has lasted the entire span of human history.”

However, some events have now been cancelled following the decision, including one in Whitstable, Kent.

And planned events in Cardiff and Edinburgh will now take place virtually, according to posts on Facebook.

One of the organisers of the event in the Welsh capital wrote: “After careful consideration (and much much bigger numbers than we ever expected!) we must respect that we are still under lockdown restrictions and in a pandemic, and neither one of us want anyone to put their health or the health of those they love at adverse risk.”

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

The High Court judge left it open for talks between the organisers and police to continue over the “application of the regulations and the (rights to freedom of expression and assembly)” to the event, but said it would “not be appropriate” for the court to make the declaration sought.

In a statement after the ruling, Reclaim These Streets said: “We are working with (Lambeth) Council, who remain wholly supportive.

“We call on the police to act within the law now and confirm that they will work with us to ensure that the protest can go ahead within the context of the overwhelming public response to Sarah Everard’s death.”

In a tweet, they added: “We are now in discussions with the Met to confirm how the event can proceed in a way that is proportionate and safe – our number one priority.”

Commander Catherine Roper, the Met’s lead for community engagement, said in a statement: “I understand this ruling will be a disappointment to those hoping to express their strength of feeling, but I ask women and allies across London to find a safe alternative way to express their views.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have consistently enforced the Covid regulations and have made difficult decisions during a range of gatherings on issues about which people have felt very strongly.

“Our hope has always been that people stick to the Covid rules, taking enforcement action is always a last resort.

“We continue to speak with the organisers of the vigil in Clapham and other gatherings across London in light of this judgment and will explain the rules and urge people to stay at home.”

Reclaim These Streets was organised after the disappearance of Ms Everard prompted a public outcry about women’s safety.

The event was due to take place at Clapham Common bandstand at 6pm on Saturday.

Ms Everard’s body was found in woodland in Kent, after she went missing walking home in south London on March 3.

Serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48 was charged on Friday evening with kidnapping and killing the marketing executive.

Ms Everard is thought to have walked through Clapham Common towards her house in Brixton – a journey which should have taken around 50 minutes.

Her death has prompted an outpouring of grief from the public, with many women and girls sharing stories online of experiencing violence by men.