Re: Misrepresentation of the High Court ruling of Friday 12th March – Reclaim These Streets
We were exceedingly disappointed to learn that you have issued a public statement regarding the vigil last night without ever speaking with or meeting organisers at Reclaim These Streets. We implore you to change your approach and work with us this week to ensure that any future vigils can be safe, lawful and proportionate.
As you know from our correspondence today, we have reached out proactively to you to meet before you submitted your report to the Home Secretary – just as we have consistently reached out proactively to your officers since day one of organising the vigil. We have only ever sought to be constructive, and to work with your force to ensure that our right to assemble is achieved lawfully and with all of the appropriate and proportionate safety and policing measures in place.
The High Court ruling on Friday 12 March was clear that the law does not prevent the police from permitting and facilitating peaceful assembly. The High Court made it clear that it is up to the police to conduct a proportionality assessment. Other police forces, such as in Nottingham, worked successfully with organisers to permit Covid-safe vigils.
Given this, we find it particularly extraordinary that you said you would have attended the vigil yourself had it been lawful. The only reason parts of what ultimately took place, without our involvement, may have been not lawful (though whether it was or not is unclear) is your Metropolitan Police Force failing to work with the women leading Reclaim These Streets to develop a lawful, proportionate and safe event.
The onus is, and always has been, on you to have enabled this to happen – and by not doing so you have not only put people at a serious health risk through a lack of Covid-safe marshalling and at risk of being manhandled, fined and arrested by your officers, but also at risk of their human rights as defined under Articles 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act 1998 being infringed upon.
The Metropolitan Police need to make it clear that going forward you will follow the High Court’s judgment and act within the law by working with organisations like RTS to ensure that women wishing to organise vigils are allowed to come together to express their profound sadness in a way consistent with protecting public health.
Our preference – from the outset – has been that we work with the Metropolitan Police to achieve this. We met with the Metropolitan Police a number of times to discuss potential options for how we might mitigate the risk from Covid, and ensure that women could come together to express their grief in a Covid-safe way. No such assessment was conducted, and we can only conclude that the Metropolitan Police are not interpreting the law correctly.
We recognise that the pandemic presents unprecedented challenges for the police, and that the legislation and Covid regulations you have been given to work with by this Government provide little clarity on a number of important areas. However, we don’t believe it is fair to women, or anyone, in this country for your statements to continue to – as we see it – misrepresent the judgment of the High Court and we anticipate that further legal action from ourselves may be required.
We look forward to meeting you as soon as possible.