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Activism

Met Police acted unlawfully in trying to ban Sarah Everard vigil, court finds

A group of activists have won their court case against the Met, after they were threatened with fines for organising a vigil for Sarah Everard.

The Met Police were “legally mistaken” to tell a group of activists they could not organise a vigil for Sarah Everard, the High Court has ruled.

Reclaim these Streets withdrew from organising the vigil on Clapham Common after police told them they faced prosecution and individual fines of £10,000 if it went ahead.

A spontaneous vigil was held on Clapham Common on Saturday March 13 anyway, with police coming under severe criticism for heavy-handed tactics.

The group took the Met to court over its decisions, and today Lord Justice Warby ruled the Met’s actions were “legally mistaken”, “simplistic”, “misinformed”, and “misleading”.

In a statement, Reclaim These Streets said: “We feel vindicated by today’s judgement. This case exposes the Metropolitan Police’s total disregard for women’s human rights to assembly and expression.”

They added: “Today’s judgement conclusively shows that the police were wrong to silence us.”

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The four claimants – co-founders of Reclaim These Streets – argued that their human rights to assembly and freedom of speech had been breached by the Met’s refusal to allow the vigil.

In the days before the planned vigil, the Met had told the organisers it would likely breach the Covid-19 restrictions in place at the time, and that action may be taken.

The court found that the Met’s actions had a “chilling effect” on the protest, and that the service had “failed to perform its legal duty to consider whether the claimants might have a reasonable excuse for holding the gathering.”

No damages were awarded by the court, which also said the Met failed to “engage properly with the claimants on measures which would have enabled a vigil to go ahead in some appropriate form.”

Protest group Sisters Uncut will be protesting outside New Scotland Yard on Saturday 12 March, to mark one year since the original vigil and to withdraw their consent from British policing.

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