Sarah Everard vigil movement ‘will only grow bigger’

Serving Metropolitan Police officer appears in court charged with kidnapping and killing the 33-year-old.

Sarah Everard vigil movement ‘will only grow bigger’ Met Police via Facebook
Sarah Everard's remains were found in Kent woodland.

The organiser of an online vigil for Sarah Everard hopes to hold an in-person event as soon as it is safe to do so, saying the Reclaim These Streets movement will “only grow bigger and bigger”.

In-person vigils planned for Saturday evening were cancelled and moved online following a decision by a High Court judge in London.

Events had been planned across the UK, including in Edinburgh and Glasgow, to pay tribute to Ms Everard, who disappeared while walking home in south London on March 3 and whose remains were found this week in Kent.

The serving Metropolitan Police officer accused of murdering Ms Everard has been remanded in custody after appearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Saturday morning.

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Wayne Couzens, 48, is charged with kidnapping and killing the 33-year-old marketing executive.

On Friday, Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman suggested women should find another way to pay tribute to Ms Everard, warning any vigil in a public place would go against coronavirus restrictions.

Chloe Whyte, who organised the Edinburgh vigil, spoke to the BBC’s Radio 5 Live show on Saturday morning.

She said organisers did not want to be responsible for women who attended in-person vigils potentially being fined for breaking lockdown rules.

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Ms Whyte said: “This is only getting bigger and bigger, regardless of what the police or the law have to say about our vigils, women will not be silenced.

“We will be taking to the streets as soon as it is legal and safe to do so.

“In the meantime, the campaigns online are only growing.”

She continued: “What would come from this conversation is beginning to dismantle a system that I say would enable people in power and people who hold positions over women to abuse that, to make us feel vulnerable and unsafe on the streets.

“I think that so many folks can relate to Sarah Everard’s story but there’s unheard voices out there who probably will never be able to tell their stories in the media because it just doesn’t fit the narrative that’s going on in the UK.”

Late on Friday night, Ms Whyte posted on Facebook that there would instead be a stream of online speakers and “doorstep vigil” activities.

She said: “The tragic story of Sarah Everard and the national outpouring it has provoked has shone a light on just how many women have been made to feel unsafe on our streets due to sexual harassment and violence. This is a moment of reflection, but also one of action.

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“Please do NOT go to Holyrood or St Andrew’s Square tomorrow, as sadly any gatherings there will be dispersed by police.”

Earlier, a High Court judge in London refused to intervene on behalf of the Reclaim These Streets group in a legal challenge over the right to gather for a protest during coronavirus restrictions.

Meanwhile, Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring on Saturday remanded Couzens in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on March 16.

The Metropolitan Police previously said Couzens joined the force in 2018, most recently serving in the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, an armed unit responsible for guarding the Parliamentary estate and embassies in London.

His main job was uniformed patrol of diplomatic buildings, and Scotland Yard said he was not on duty at the time of Ms Everard’s disappearance.

The force said that Couzens, of Deal, in Kent, was taken to hospital for a second time in 48 hours on Friday for treatment to another head injury sustained in custody, before he was discharged and returned to a police station.

He was previously treated in hospital for a separate head wound on Thursday, also sustained in custody when he was alone in his cell.