Women defy crowd bans in UK to mourn Sarah Everard

Organisers of events planned countrywide told gatherings in breach of Covid-19 rules

A number of arrests were made after clashes broke out between mourners and London police on Saturday evening during a memorial in Clapham Common for murdered woman Sarah Everard. Video: Reuters

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Mourners including the Duchess of Cambridge visited a memorial for London murder victim Sarah Everard on Saturday as police warned that vigils to pay tribute and to protest about violence against women would breach Covid-19 restrictions.

Police told organisers of events planned in London and around the country to pay tribute to Everard that public gatherings would be in breach of restrictions and could lead to fines up to £10,000.

Organisers at Reclaim These Streets said they had cancelled a vigil on Clapham Common in south London near where 33-year-old Everard was last seen. Numerous other planned vigils countrywide also followed suit and cancelled.

Dozens of women and men still went to Clapham Common to leave flowers, letters and drawings at a memorial to Everard, standing in silence with the occasional sound of sobbing as several police officers looked on.

Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, was filmed among those who visited a bandstand where tributes were left.

“It feels like we finally have people’s attention, so it was important for me to be here in spite of the ban [on the vigil] and honour Sarah’s memory,” said Hannah (29).

A planned vigil on Clapham Common in honour of murder victim Sarah Everard was cancelled after police outlawed it due to Covid-19 restrictions. Photograph: Getty
A planned vigil on Clapham Common in honour of murder victim Sarah Everard was cancelled after police outlawed it due to Covid-19 restrictions. Photograph: Getty
A crowd gathers on Clapham Common. Photograph: Getty
A crowd gathers on Clapham Common. Photograph: Getty
Police surround the band stand in Clapham Common. Photograph: PA
Police surround the band stand in Clapham Common. Photograph: PA

With vigils banned, other women and campaign groups arranged online events and doorstep tributes for Everard, whose killing has sparked widespread anger and fear about women’s safety.

Everard, a marketing executive, disappeared while walking home from a friend’s house at about 9.30pm on March 3rd. Her body was later found in woods about 50 miles away in southeast England.

London police officer Wayne Couzens (48) appeared in court on Saturday charged with her kidnap and murder.

Her killing has led many women to share their fears of walking alone and experiences of being harassed or attacked by men in public, with calls for more action to be taken to address violence against women and abuse. Reclaim These Streets said it would be hosting an online meeting and asked supporters around the country to take part in a doorstep tribute with candles and lights.

England is in a national lockdown to stem the coronavirus pandemic and people cannot leave or be outside of their homes except with a “reasonable excuse” and can only be outside with one other person.

But some women called for defiance.

“To all those still thinking of heading to Clapham Common at 6pm tonight: we will be there! Please bring your sadness and your rage,” said anti-abuse campaign group Sisters Uncut in a Twitter post.

London’s Metropolitan police faced criticism over enforcing the ban, with Reclaim These Streets saying the vigil would have been safe and legal. – Reuters