Women urged not to attend Sarah Everard vigils in person

Craig Paton, PA Scotland Political Reporter
·3-min read

Women should find another way to pay tribute to Sarah Everard rather than an in-person vigil, Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has said.

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.

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

Ms Freeman has warned any vigil in a public place would go against coronavirus restrictions.

Sarah Everard
Sarah Everard went missing while walking home in south London and was later found dead (Met Police/PA)

She said she herself would join commemorations if “we were in normal times”.

But she 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.”

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.

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)

“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”.

At the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Friday, Ms Freeman was also asked about the comparisons between a vigil held in memory of Ms Everard and the hundreds of Rangers fans who took to the streets of Glasgow in the wake of the team’s league win last weekend.

Police have been criticised by some for not dispersing the Rangers fans, who gathered in huge numbers in the city’s George Square and outside Ibrox stadium.

Ms Freeman said it would not be for Government to tell the police what to do on operational matters.