A statement from the organisers of #ReclaimTheseStreets
Reclaim These Streets is organised by a group of women who wanted to channel the collective grief, outrage and sadness in our community. Our plan is to hold a short gathering on Clapham Common, centred around a minute of silence to remember Sarah Everard and all women lost to violence.
We were always aware of the challenges of organising a Covid-secure vigil, but safety has been a top priority from the beginning. When we initially proposed the event, we proactively reached out to Lambeth Council and the Metropolitan Police to ensure that the event could safely and legally take place.
After initially receiving a positive response, we continued to plan and promote the event and continued to update the Council and Police. The Metropolitan Police said that they were “trying to navigate a way through” and that they were “currently developing a local policing plan” to allow the vigil to take place and to enable them to “develop an appropriate and proportionate local response” to the event.
This afternoon, the Metropolitan Police have reversed their position and stated that the vigil would be unlawful, that their “hands are tied” by the Covid-19 regulations, and that, as organisers, we could face tens of thousands of pounds in fixed penalty notices and criminal prosecution under the Serious Crimes Act.
We have taken urgent advice from a group of human rights lawyers from Bindmans LLP and Blackstone and Doughty Street Chambers. Their view is that the Metropolitan Police are wrong in their interpretation of the law and that socially distant, outdoor gathering of this kind can be allowed under the current lockdown regulations, when read together with the Human Rights Act.
Harriet Harman QC MP has written to the Metropolitan Police in support of this view, saying that that “Parliament has not specifically acted to constrain the right to demonstrate, so long as social distancing is observed this vigil will be perfectly lawful”. She also stated that she plans to attend the vigil on Saturday.
Our lawyers have now written to the Metropolitan Police, challenging their interpretation of coronavirus legislation, when taken together with the Human Rights Act. We have decided to seek an urgent order from the High Court confirming that the Metropolitan Police’s understanding of the law is wrong. We hope that this will be heard tomorrow, Friday 12 March, so that the vigil can still go ahead.
Should the judge decide in our favour, our Clapham vigil should be allowed to go ahead.
We are raising funds to cover a potential costs order which the police can take against us if we are not successful, and pay our legal team, who have agreed to act at reduced rates. We will also be forced to cancel the vigil, and no women across England will be able to assemble to assert their rights.
The only way for us to proceed is to crowdfund the potential costs of £30,000 which we need to raise by 9am tomorrow morning.
We’ve all been following the tragic case of Sarah Everard over the last week. This is a vigil for Sarah, but also for all women who feel unsafe, who go missing from our streets and who face violence every day. By forcing us to cancel the Reclaim These Streets vigil, the Metropolitan Police will be silencing thousands of women like us who want to honour Sarah’s memory and stand up for our right to feel safe on our streets.