Sarah Everard vigil Leeds: Hundreds lay down in Millennium Square to raise awareness of violence against women
Hundreds of people lay on the ground in Millennium Square this evening during one minute of silence to remember women whose lives have been lost to violence.
The hundreds who had gathered in Leeds city centre tonight were encouraged by speakers to lay on the ground to remember women whose lives had been lost due to violence.
The Square was completely silent for one minute before speakers read out a list of names of around 40 women who 'needed' to be remembered.
The vigil and protest concluded with handheld fountain flares omitting green and purple smoke into the air as people rose from the ground cheering and chanting as they began to leave.
Chants included, 'whose streets? Our streets' along with 'sisters united, we'll never be defeated'.
The vigil was held in memory of Sarah Everard and was a protest against a new piece of legislation which is said to give police more powers to stop mass demonstrations.
It lasted for around an hour and a half, and was incredibly moving as people took it in turns to pay their respects to Sarah Everard as flowers were laid and candles were lit on the Civic Hall steps.
Millennium Square was filled with protester's signs as crowds listened silently to individual speakers.
One cardboard sign said ‘Reclaim the streets’ and another said ‘fight for women’s liberation’.
Libby, a 19-year-old student said: “I’m here because I was at the vigil the other day and because of the amount of police officers who were intimidating people.
"It is unacceptable what has happened and just the other night I was beeped at by men just as I was getting back to my flat. This is exactly what we are speaking out against."
Speakers lined up at the vigil to outline their views on Sarah Everard and on the wider context of issues around violence against women, women’s safety and the policing of the London vigil.
One speaker said: “We are not safe on the streets or in our homes and the state does not protect us.
“We are here to take back the streets because whose streets are they? [’They’re our streets’, the crowd chants].”
Another speaker added: “Thank you Sisters for uniting us today, no justice, no peace.”
Around eight police officers could be seen surrounding Millennium Square during the protest.
A spokesperson for West Yorkshire Police said: “Women should always feel safe to walk the streets of West Yorkshire and we remain committed to making the county a safe place to live and work for everyone.
“It is entirely normal that the public wish to express their solidarity and concern in these circumstances.
“However, the threat from Coronavirus remains and any large gathering is a real risk to individuals’ health. Throughout this pandemic, West Yorkshire Police has sought to encourage and explain to the public, in order to keep them safe, rather than move to enforcement. Although that always remains an option where we feel it necessary and appropriate.
“We understand how important the issue of tackling violence against women is and that women want to make their voices heard, but we would ask everyone to consider the current risk to their own health and think about attending public events at a later date, when it is both safe and legal to do so.”