Organisers left ‘heartbroken and angered’ after Sheffield vigil for Sarah Everard postponed
The organisers of a vigil for Sarah Everard in Sheffield have postponed the event after being threatened with a £10,000 fine.
Ms Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive from York, went missing in south London after leaving a friend’s flat on the evening of March 3.
Her remains were discovered in Kent woodland on Wednesday.
In a statement, Reclaim Sheffield Streets said they were ‘heartbroken and angered’ by the ‘shameful’ response of South Yorkshire Police to their planned gathering on Devonshire Green at 6pm on Saturday.
Attendees had been asked to wear face coverings and practice social distancing.
“We fundamentally believe in our right to safely and peacefully gather and we are heartbroken and angered by this response,” a spokesperson said.
"The fact the police cannot see the legitimate reasons why women need to take a public stand against violence is shameful.”
Vigils around the country had been organised in the wake of Ms Everard’s disappearance, which prompted public debate about women's safety.
The statement read: “Protests are not banned completely and in January the head of the National Police Chiefs Council, Martin Hewitt, said police powers would be used ‘in the most serious cases, where those organising these gatherings are selfishly putting lives at risk’. This socially distanced rally should not be considered as one of those ‘serious cases’. It's about saving lives, not putting them at risk.
“However, as organisers we cannot in good faith ask people to gather at Devonshire Green when we know this may risk fines. As such, we will be postponing our gathering until the summer.”
The group urged people not to gather in person this evening – and said details about a virtual event tonight will be released shortly.
A serving Metropolitan Police officer – 48-year-old Wayne Couzens – appeared before Westminster Magistrates’ Court this morning charged with Ms Everard’s kidnap and murder.
The statement continued: “We have been absolutely blown away by the number of people who have wanted to gather together to grieve the death of Sarah Everard, share our anger and reclaim our streets.
“We are disappointed that women across the country have been prevented from doing this. We stand in full solidarity with all the organisers who have been trying to make a safe event work in their city or town.”
Police said they were ‘acutely aware of the groundswell of concern in relation to some of the matters this protest aims to address’ and understood the need to come together – but urged people to make their voices heard in ‘a safe and Covid-compliant way’.
Mass gatherings are currently illegal in the UK due to coronavirus restrictions.
The Reclaim Sheffield Streets statement concluded: “We support the move from Reclaim These Streets to fundraise £320,000, which is £10,000 for each location where the vigils were expected to go ahead.
“At the heart of this is Sarah Everard, who just wanted to go home. We would like to express our deepest condolences to Sarah’s family and friends.”
The fundraiser was set up after a vigil planned for Ms Everard on Clapham Common, one of the last locations where she was seen, was banned by the Metropolitan Police over coronavirus safety concerns.