Britain remembers Sarah Everard

4 weeks ago 15

Thousands of Britons tonight gathered to remember Sarah Everard in at least nine vigils held in towns and cities across Britain - in defiance of calls for the events to be cancelled in the wake of Covid-19.

Mourners stood together in Clapham Common from 6pm on Saturday to lay flowers and pay tribute to the marketing executive, who was found dead in Kent a week after she disappeared while walking home in south London.  

They were joined by hundreds of others who gathered to light candles in memory of Miss Everard in Bristol, Leeds, Cambridge, Cardiff, Bournemouth, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Nottingham - where Britons held placards reading 'We are all Sarah' and 'Teach this in schools.' 

Others remembered the marketing executive by lighting candles on their doorsteps and windows, with tributes paid by Boris Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds, Labour Leader Keir Starmer and actor Richard E Grant.

The largest of the vigils took place in Clapham Common, close to where marketing executive Miss Everard, 33, vanished while walking towards her home in Brixton on March 3.

It began peacefully at around 6pm on Saturday, with Kate Middleton among those seen paying tribute.     

But clashes broke out later in the night, with Scotland Yard seen arresting several women who had congregated without social distancing in a response dubbed 'neither appropriate nor proportionate' by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. 

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the scenes were 'upsetting', while confirming she has asked the Metropolitan Police for a 'full report on what happened' during the vigil on Saturday. 

The planned event had been cancelled following a High Court battle on Friday, but an estimated 1,500 Londoners defied calls from the Metropolitan Police 'stay at home or find a lawful and safer way to express your views' to attend.

Around 150 people gathered in Valley Gardens, Brighton for another vigil tonight, with Sussex Police confirming a 20-year-old man was arrested and eight fines were handed out to those in attendance. 

'We acknowledge many women have experienced violence, abuse or harassment and this is not acceptable,' a statement added. 'Protecting our communities is a top priority for Sussex Police, and we will do what it takes to ensure you feel safe in the county where you live.' 

LONDON: Crowds gathered on Clapham Common tonight near to where Sarah Everard vanished on March 3, despite the Metropolitan Police urging mourners to stay home

CAMBRIDGE: Mourners hold candles and placards in support of the marketing executive on King's Parade tonight

BRISTOL: On College Green, Britons lit candles and laid flowers in remembrance of Miss Everard, who was found dead in Kent

BOURNEMOUTH: A gathering also took place in Bournemouth, where a handful of Britons stood socially distanced

NOTTINGHAM: Those in Nottingham stood in solidarity with the late Miss Everard, following her kidnap and murder 

LEEDS: A placard reading 'We are all Sarah' was left on the steps of the Parkinson Building at the University of Leeds today

EDINBURGH: People light candles outside the Scottish Parliament after the Reclaim These Streets vigil for Miss Everard in Edinburgh was cancelled

CARDIFF: Women hold up placards outside the Senedd in Cardiff during a Reclaim These Streets vigil for Sarah Everard

BIRMINGHAM: A woman places a candle in Birmingham after the Reclaim These Streets vigil for Sarah Everard was officially cancelled

Scenes were calmer in Birmingham, where more than 100 people defied police requests not to gather due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

The gathering in the city centre had been called off earlier in the day following discussions with West Midlands Police, but dozens of people still attended the hour-long vigil.   

The event, which was addressed by several speakers and included a minute's silence for Ms Everard, passed off without incident and with no obvious sign of uniformed police. 

One woman, addressing the crowd, said: 'The police have prevented this, but despite that we have still come out in a pretty decent number. I think we should all be really proud of the fact that we have stood our ground anyway.

'One of the reasons I am here today is not just to acknowledge the tragic, awful thing that happened to Sarah, but also the countless women who are going to be dying because of the system.'

Another speaker, who introduced herself as Elizabeth from Wolverhampton, said: 'I am fed up of hearing people - men and women - telling me that I need to have somebody to walk with me.

'If I go somewhere, they say 'oh, I'll walk you home' - it seems like almost it's something that I have to do, be walked home.

'I've been told this, like many of you, since I was a young girl, I'm not a child, I don't need to be told how I should behave, I should be able - and I do - to walk the streets anytime I want.

'Because I am a free human-being, I am equal to everybody else, not a child to be told what I have to do.'

She added: 'I just wish that everybody would be safe to walk, anytime, anywhere, without fear of violence - society needs to change.' 

Earlier, attendees had lit candles and laid them at the foot of a tree in Victoria Square, to which signs had been fixed reading 'I am Sarah Everard' and 'Male violence is for men to fix'.

Virtual events were also held in Sarah's memory tonight, with QI presenter Sandi Toksvig opening an online vigil hosted by Feminists of London by saying her death 'should be a turning point.' 

 'Tomorrow is Mother's Day. Never have I felt more passionately concerned about my kids,' she said. 'It surely cannot be asking too much to want them simply to be free, to walk where they like, when they like.

'I am filled in equal measure with profound sorrow and rage, and I know there are many who share this rage and I think it is entirely justifiable. But I also know that it will harm rather than help us if we don't try and direct that anger to good purpose.'

She added that it was not a 'small change' that was needed, but a 'cultural shift about how women are viewed and treated both in the public and private space'.

'This has to be a turning point where ending violence finally becomes a political priority,' she said.

Mandu Reid, the leader of the Women's Equality Party, added violence against women and girls is 'akin to a form of domestic terrorism'.

Speaking at Feminists of London's virtual vigil, she said: 'The pain and poignancy of this moment lies in the devastating fact that all women and every girl lives under the perpetual threat that what happened to Sarah could happen to any one of us.

'The reality for women and girls is that the harassment we experience, which is as omnipresent as the air we breathe, could escalate at any time.'

LONDON: The bandstand was surrounded by flowers laid three-foot deep as people gathered for a vigil

LONDON: A well-wisher places a adds a tribute to the growing pile from a gap in a police cordon at the band-stand where a planned vigil in honour of murder victim Miss Everard

LONDON: People clash with police tonight during a gathering at a memorial site near the Clapham Common bandstand

LONDON: Police officers form a cordon as well-wishers turn on their phone torches as they gather at a bandstand where a planned vigil in honour of murder victim Miss Everard was cancelled

LONDON: Those paying tribute to Miss Everard place flowers and candles around a tree in Clapham Common tonight

LONDON: A woman was pinned to the ground in Clapham Common amid rising tensions on Saturday night

BRISTOL: People bring flowers and candles on College Green in Bristol after the Reclaim These Streets vigil for Sarah Everard was officially cancelled

EDINBURGH: A police liaison officer talks to people outside the Scottish Parliament after the Reclaim These Streets vigil for Sarah Everard in Edinburgh was cancelled

EDINBURGH: People gather outside the Scottish Parliament after the Reclaim These Streets vigil for Sarah Everard in Edinburgh was cancelled

BOURNEMOUTH: Three women light candles in Bournemouth after the Reclaim These Streets vigil for Sarah Everard was cancelled

Scotland Yard urged Britons to leave Clapham Common as the scenes quickly turned tense on Saturday night

Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds light a candle on the doorstep in memory of Sarah 

Candles have been lit on doorsteps and in windows in tribute to Sarah Everard.

From the doorstep of Number 10 Downing Street to the homes of celebrities and activists, the 33-year-old was remembered on Saturday evening.

The simple act of lighting a candle had been promoted by the Reclaim These Streets group after in-person vigils in honour of Ms Everard and all women they described as 'lost to violence' were cancelled amid coronavirus restrictions.

A candle lit by Boris Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds was placed on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street.

The Prime Minister had earlier said he 'cannot imagine how unbearable' the pain and grief is for Ms Everard's family and friends.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria were pictured holding a candle outside their home in north London during the doorstep vigil.

Labour MP Jess Phillips said she is feeling 'sad and angry and determined'.

She tweeted: 'I am on my doorstep. Sad and angry and determined that our lives and our liberty have got to matter more than they do today. Tonight is for Sarah, her family and all who feel the loss.'

Actor Richard E Grant tweeted a video of himself with his eyes closed beside a candle, with a caption stating Ms Everard's name alongside several heartbreak emojis.

It's A Sin actor Keeley Hawes tweeted: 'In memory of Sarah Everard Thinking of her and her loved ones.'

Following controversial scenes in Clapham, where police officers clashed with some of those attending a gathering in memory of Ms Everard, television presenter Kirstie Allsopp said the act of lighting a candle 'still matters'.

She tweeted: 'It still matters that we light a candle at 9.30. I know it feels like a small thing in the face of so much. But please go and find your candle now.'

She continued: 'I am done with empty platitudes from political leaders from across the spectrum who treat male violence like a tragic but inevitable force of nature, as if they haven't spent years slashing budgets to prevention programmes and support services.' 

Planned gatherings across the UK were today cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions, but an estimated 1,500 Londoners defied pleas from the Metropolitan Police to stay home and attended a vigil in Clapham Common. 

A number of police officers moved in on the bandstand to block access for speakers as the crowd started chanting 'arrest your own' and 'shame on you' this evening. Scenes quickly turned violent as officers pinned women to the ground to handcuff them.

Footage posted to social media showed a tussle between Metropolitan Police officers and some of the crowd as dozens shouted 'you are scum' following the brief clash. One woman screamed 'you're supposed to protect us'. 

Labour leader Keir Starmer and Liberal Democrats deputy Daisy Cooper were among the parliamentarians to condemn the use of force in Clapham this evening, with Mr Starmer dubbing the scenes 'deeply disturbing.'

He said: 'The scenes in Clapham this evening are deeply disturbing. Women came together to mourn Sarah Everard - they should have been able to do so peacefully.

'I share their anger and upset at how this has been handled. This was not the way to police this protest.' 

Sadiq Khan furiously hit out at the 'unacceptable' scenes, adding: 'The police have a responsibility to enforce Covid laws but from images I've seen it's clear the response was at times neither appropriate nor proportionate. 

'I'm contact with the Commissioner and urgently seeking an explanation.'

Priti Patel has called for a 'full report' from Metropolitan Police after officers manhandled screaming women during the extraordinary clashes on Saturday. 

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn shared a picture of candles on his windowsill, tweeting: 'Women must be safe on our streets. Solidarity with Sarah. Women must be safe to walk peacefully everywhere.'

'The Met Police must answer for their actions at Clapham Common this evening,' he added.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has called for Dame Cressida to 'consider' her leadership of the force.

In a letter to the Commissioner, he wrote: 'The scenes this evening of the policing of the Clapham Common vigil in memory of Sarah Everard are utterly disgraceful and shame the Metropolitan Police.

'The vigil this evening was a peaceful one brought together in the most horrific of circumstances.

'Across the country, countless women have told their own painful stories of harassment and abuse. Your officers should have been standing in solidarity with those on Clapham Common tonight not being ordered to disrupt this display of grief and peaceful protest.

'This was a complete abject tactical and moral failure on the part of the Police.

'We therefore call on you to consider your leadership of the service and whether you can continue to have the confidence of the millions of women in London that you have a duty to safeguard and protect.'

A Reclaim These Streets event was due to be held tonight at the bandstand on Clapham Common, near where Ms Everard went missing, but organisers yesterday failed to secure a High Court ruling that lockdown - which bans gatherings - should not stop their right to protest.  

Despite urging people to conduct a vigil at their doorstep with a candle, hundreds of people arrived at Clapham Common this evening and similar gatherings have been held in Bournemouth, Leeds, Cambridge and Bristol. 

Following violence at vigils, Reclaim These Streets said it was 'deeply saddened and angered by the scene of police officers physically manhandling women at a vigil against male violence'. 

 A High Court judge last night refused to intervene on behalf of the group in a legal challenge over the right to gather for a protest during coronavirus restrictions

LONDON: Police officers scuffle with people gathering at a bandstand in Clapham Common on Saturday night

EDINBURGH: Roses were laid close to the Scottish Parliament amid a vigil which took place on Saturday

BIRMINGHAM: A woman lights a candle in Birmingham after the Reclaim These Streets vigil for Miss Everard was officially cancelled

CAMBRIDGE: Women lined a road in Cambridge and held up signs as they held a vigil for Ms Everard

BRISTOL: Mounted police watched over a vigil on the College Green this evening

The vigil was planned for Saturday in memory of marketing executive Sarah Everard, who disappeared while walking home to Brixton on March 3

A spokesman added: 'From the start Reclaim These Streets set out to work closely with the Met to ensure this vigil could go ahead safely, so women could stand together peacefully and safely to remember Sarah Everard and all the women lost to male violence.

'The Metropolitan Police failed to work with us despite the High Court ruling yesterday that a vigil could potentially go ahead lawfully. In doing so they created a risky and unsafe situation. It is their responsibility to protect public order, public health and the right to protest - they failed tonight on all accounts.

'All the time they spent fighting us on a legal claim that the Judge agreed should not have been necessary and was caused by the Metropolitan Police's stance, they could've been working with us to ensure the vigil went ahead in a safe way. The Judge was clear and the Metropolitan Police conceded minutes before the hearing, that there was no blanket ban on protest under the current law. They then had an opportunity - and a responsibility to work with us safely and within the law.

'This week of all weeks the police should have understood that women would need a place to mourn, reflect and show solidarity. Now is the time for the police and the Government to recognise that the criminal justice system is failing women. Tonight, it has failed women again, in the most destructive way. We will keep fighting for women's voices to be heard and to matter.'

Campaign group Sisters Uncut, which had representatives attending the Clapham vigil, tweeted: 'As soon as the sun went down, police stormed the bandstand. We do NOT answer to violent men.'

The account posted: 'Stay safe. Know your rights: 'NO COMMENT' if cops talk to you. If police ask you to do anything, ask 'am I legally obliged to?'. if they say yes, ask 'under what power?''  

Police last night said the gathering at Clapham Common is 'unsafe', and urged people to go home.

A tweet from the Lambeth police account said: 'The gathering at #ClaphamCommon is unsafe. Hundreds of people are tightly packed together in breach of the regulations and risking public health.

LONDON: Fights broke out as people battled against police officers on Saturday evening in Clapham Common

LONDON: Crowds gathered around the bandstand in Clapham Common on Saturday in a peaceful vigil ahead of the unrest 

LONDON: A candle is seen as part of a memorial to mark the last time Sarah Everard was seen, before her kidnap and murder, at Downing Street

'We are urging people to go home and we thank those who have been engaging with officers and who are leaving.'

A small vigil was held in Brussels for Ms Everard. Entrepreneur Rozina Spinnoy, who moved to Belgium almost 20 years ago, attended the event with her son and a few others, holding posters proclaiming 'reclaim these streets'.

She said: 'Todays Brussels vigil was important for me. Showing all that regardless of our backgrounds, colour, race or religion, as women we unite - we share the grief together over Sarah Everard and all women who have experienced violence.

'Internationally and cross border to show solidarity in the fight to stop violence against women. We won't be silenced.'

She added: 'I feel positive to have contributed to this campaign for more safety / no violence against women in public spaces. Also to remember Sarah.'

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson lit a candle for Ms Everard with his fiancee Carrie Symonds. The Prime Minister said he 'cannot imagine how unbearable' the pain and grief is for Ms Everard's family and friends.

He wrote on Twitter: 'Tonight Carrie and I will be lighting a candle for Sarah Everard and thinking of her family and friends. I cannot imagine how unbearable their pain and grief is. We must work fast to find all the answers to this horrifying crime.

'I will do everything I can to make sure the streets are safe and ensure women and girls do not face harassment or abuse.'    

LONDON: Police attempt to break up a vigil for Ms Everard at the bandstand on Clapham Common

LONDON: Hundreds of mourners defied social distancing to gather at Clapham Common on Saturday night

Kensington Palace said Kate (pictured) 'wanted to pay her respects to the family and to Sarah', reported Sky . 'She remembers what is was like to walk around London at night before she was married,' the palace added

The unexpected visit came after a planned vigil was cancelled, with organisers citing the Met Police's 'lack of constructive engagement' to help make it Covid secure

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

The group said today that despite their attempts to work with police to ensure the Clapham vigil could proceed safely, they now felt it could not go ahead.

Organisers said they had made 'many suggestions' to police, including splitting the event into different time slots - but that they were told going ahead with a vigil could risk a £10,000 fine each for each woman organising.

A number of police forces across the country also issued statements urging people not to attend the in-person events, instead encouraging people to move online.

Greater Manchester Police said: 'We along with the rest of the country are shocked and saddened about what happened to Sarah Everard - women should never have to live in fear. Gathering in large groups is still unlawful so if you plan on joining events this weekend, please do so in a covid-safe way.' 

A vigil planned for Miss Everard's home city of York was cancelled and organisers urged people to post a photo of a candle in their window or doorway.

A fundraising target of £320,000 by Reclaim These Streets was set to mirror the fines which might have been issued had the vigils gone ahead, with the aim to raise £10,000 for each of the 32 vigils which organisers said had been scheduled.

Caitlin Prowle, from Reclaim These Streets, said the group had not wanted to end up in a situation they were having to raise funds to pay fines, rather than for charitable causes.

She said the money would 'just go straight back into a system' that 'continues to fail' women.

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