Leeds Sarah Everard vigil and Sisters Uncut protest to be held in Millennium Square

A vigil in memory of Sarah Everard and a protest against a new piece of legislation which is said to give police more powers to stop mass demonstrations will be held in Leeds' Millennium Square on Monday.

Monday, 15th March 2021, 12:03 pm
Updated Monday, 15th March 2021, 1:28 pm

The 33-year-old woman, originally from York, went missing while walking home from a friend’s flat in south London on March 3.

Her body was found hidden in an area of woodland in Ashford, Kent, on March 10.

A 48-year-old man who is a serving Metropolitan Police officer has been charged with kidnap and murder.

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A drawing of Sarah Everard, alongside floral tributes, left at the Bandstand on Clapham Common.

Hundreds of people gathered in Clapham Common on Saturday, March 14 to hold a vigil for Sarah, however, it ended with ended in violent clashes between some attendees and Metropolitan Police officers.

A Reclaim The Night vigil planned for Leeds on the same night was moved online after organisers said that West Yorkshire Police had warned them they would be fined if women took to the streets for the event.

More than 70,000 joined the online vigil but organisers were left "distressed" after the scenes unfolded in Clapham on the news and social media.

The group is now supporting Sisters Uncut Leeds, Rainbow Junktion and Non-Binary Leeds in hosting a vigil at 5pm in Millennium Square on Monday, March 15.

Sarah Everard

There, the groups will also protest against the proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

A statement from Reclaim The Night Leeds group said: "The weekend has been incredibly saddening, hopeful and anger inducing.

"On Saturday we held our online vigil after many of us had dropped off flowers, candles and placards on Parkinson Steps, which was lit up in hour of Sarah Everard.

"The vigil was incredibly moving for many, the fact that it reached over 70,000 people online is something we never thought would happen.

"All we wanted was to offer a space for people to mourn the loss of an innocent woman, a woman could have been all of us. I hope we did that for you.

"After we left our evening we started to see the incredibly distressing images and videos released from Clapham Common.

"The violence shown by the police, the trampling of flowers, the dragging of women's bodies across the grounds of vigil; a place to mourn the death of Sarah, of all women killed on the streets of the UK.

"This shows exactly where the police and UK government lie on this issue."

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The statement adds: "As we stated, there is an epidemic of violence against women in the UK and this needs to be stopped.

"One of the sole ways we can do this, to raise awareness and to show our anger is to protest. If you have not already heard, the very idea of a protest is at risk. The 'Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill' if passed into law includes sweeping new powers to "tackle non-violence protests that have a significant disruptive effect"

"Including the power to make it an offence to cause "serious annoyance" or "inconvenience", meaning public protest is criminalised.

"It also increases the maximum penalty for criminal damage to a monument from 3 months to 10 years. What is most terrifying to us is the new powers to target one-person protests, even though they are Covid safe and shows how far the government is willing to go to stop our freedom to protest.

"As you can see this bill is incredibly dangerous and impacts not just activist groups but you - the public. Any rights, especially the freedom to gather and protest, shows that this government feels comfortable in becoming a more draconian and authoritative and that should care all of you.

"Therefore we felt like we could not keep quiet on this issue. Sisters Uncut in London has been paramount in organising protests against this bill, and their Leeds division alonside Rainbow Junktion and Non-Binary Leeds has also followed suit. We stand in solidarity with them."

The death of Sarah Everard has unleashed a “tidal wave” of women no longer willing to accept male violence, one of the organisers of a campaign in her honour has said.

Jamie Klingler, who helped create the viral Reclaim These Streets campaign, said it had been “hard to watch from afar” as the peaceful vigil they had planned in Clapham Common ended in clashes between attendees and officers.

Organisers had been forced to cancel the event after the Metropolitan Police insisted it would be in breach of coronavirus restrictions, a move that Ms Klingler argues only escalated the violence when people turned up anyway.

Speaking on Sunday (March 14), Jamie said: “I think we were shocked and really, really sad and to see videos of policemen handling women at a vigil about violence against women by men. I think it was painful and pretty triggering to see.

“The fact that nobody stepped in and said: ‘Do you see how this looks?’ The fact that Thursday and Friday they wasted our organising time by dragging us to the High Court for our human rights to protest and we were going to have a silent vigil.

“Especially today, it’s Mother’s Day. It’s the week of International Women’s Day. And instead of allowing and facilitating it like the Lambeth police wanted to – and that police force was so supportive – Scotland Yard quashed us and in doing so silenced us and got the reaction they got last night.”

The Leeds vigil will be held in Millennium Square from 5pm to 6.30pm.

There will be a minutes silence to remember Sarah Everard and other women who have died.

Attendees are encourages to bring placards, flowers and candles.

Covid-19 safety measures such as masks and social distancing are in place.

People who have been asked to shield by a GP have been asked not to attend.

There is a designated area for wheelchair users to the right hand of the steps.