Sheffield councillor criticises South Yorkshire Police after organisers of Sarah Everard vigil threatened with £10,000 fine

South Yorkshire Police ‘took the wrong approach’ by threatening the organisers of a vigil for Sarah Everard in Sheffield with a £10,000 fine, a councillor has claimed.

Sunday, 14th March 2021, 5:09 pm

‘Heartbroken and angered’ organisers postponed a gathering on Devonshire Green and held a virtual event online after police said anyone attending would be liable to be fined.

The disappearance and death of Ms Everard prompted public debate about women's safety.

Labour councillor Ben Miskell said there was an “epidemic of violence against women and people should have been allowed to collectively grieve safely.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

A vigil for Sarah Everard was planned for 6pm on Saturday on Devonshire Green. Photo: @lanaharold
A vigil for Sarah Everard was planned for 6pm on Saturday on Devonshire Green. Photo: @lanaharold

He added: “Threatening to fine people who planned to come together in a safe, socially distanced vigil in Sheffield was the wrong approach.

"The sensitivity of the issue should have been respected.”

Mass gatherings are currently banned due to coronavirus restrictions but a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest was allowed to take place in Sheffield in June 2020.

Similar protests took place across the UK, with police opting not to intervene and disperse crowds even when social distancing was compromised.

At the time, assistant chief constable David Hartley from South Yorkshire Police said it was their ‘duty to facilitate peaceful protest.’

South Yorkshire Police spoke to the organisers of the BLM protest ahead of that event but a spokesperson said they had not been contacted by the organisers of the Reclaim Sheffield Streets vigil.

Assistant chief constable Tim Forber said the force 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’.