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Reclaim These Streets: Vigils planned across the UK for Sarah Everard

“As women, we are told from a very young age to do these things to prevent attacks, and yet Sarah still went missing, and so it just really hammered home that that could have been any of us.”

Dozens of vigils for Londoner Sarah Everard have been organised nationwide under the banner “Reclaim These Streets” after 33-year-old marketing executive disappeared while walking home in south London on March 3. 

Police confirmed remains found in Kent on March 9 had been identified as Ms Everard on Friday afternoon, and are still questioning a serving police officer arrested in connection with her murder.

Reclaim These Streets, a grassroots organisation set up by a group of women from London to “channel the collective grief, outrage and sadness” following Everard’s disappearance, had planned a socially distanced vigil on Clapham Common this Saturday (March 13) but had to cancel after Met Police warned the event could be unlawful. 

More than 4,000 people said they will attend the gathering, which organisers told The Big Issue was being made Covid-secure, but police have warned organisers and attendees risk fines for breaching pandemic restrictions.

Labour MP Helen Hayes shared a statement from the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party on Twitter on Friday, which stated the group supports the protests on the principle that it is a human right.

The statement says: “We believe that the Reclaim These Streets vigils in memory of Sarah Everard and in support of the right of every woman and girl to walk our streets without fear of violence are consistent with Covid-19 regulations which recognise that the right to protest is a human right.

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“We therefore urge the police to confirm that they will work with the organisers and local communities to ensure that if vigils take place they are done as safely as possible with Covid-secure measures in place.”

According to The Independent, Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “We must urge people to remember that we are still in a pandemic and ask that they continue to follow the rules.

“We would ask the public to continue to follow social distancing rules, but we do understand the strength of feelings in this case.”

But dozens of independent events are springing up all over the country, organised by groups who share a collective sense of anger and want to make their voices heard. 

Beth Mitchell, who has helped set up a vigil in Southampton, told The Big Issue she was inspired after seeing the work of the women in London and wanted to keep the conversation going. 

“The Sarah Everard disappearance felt very poignant, as she did everything right,” Beth told The Big Issue. 

“She wore bright colours, texted when she was going to get home, and she still got attacked. 

“As women, we are told from a very young age to do these things to prevent attacks, and yet Sarah still went missing, and so it just really hammered home that that could have been any of us.”

Reclaim The Streets is sharing details of the various events on Twitter. Local constabularies have told The Big Issue they are talking to organisers and monitoring discussions.

Sarah’s story has also led to thousands of women speaking out about women’s safety and male violence, with many using the #ReclaimTheseStreets and #SarahEverard Twitter hashtags, sharing personal stories of feeling unsafe while out in public. 

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