Organisers of a vigil for Sarah Everard are seeking legal action after claiming the Metropolitan Police reversed its position on allowing the event to go ahead.
The ‘Reclaim These Streets’ group said they plan to bring a High Court appeal on Friday, challenging the force’s interpretation of Covid restrictions when read together with human rights law.
The group were planning to meet at 6pm on Saturday at Clapham Common in south-west London, not far from where the 33-year-old went missing on March 3.
It was organised after Ms Everard’s suspected kidnap and murder sparked anger over the safety of women on the UK’s streets.
In statement, Reclaim These Streets said the Met had told them the force was “trying to navigate a way through” to develop a local policing plan to allow the vigil to take place.
However, the group claimed, the force has since reversed its position.
“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,” the group said in statement.
“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.”
URGENT UPDATE: police want us to pull the event and are threatening to prosecute organisers. We're working with human rights lawyers to challenge this, but we need your help 👇👇#ReclaimTheseStreetshttps://t.co/HLkvZ4fNwK pic.twitter.com/NboEaFGLs0
— Reclaim These Streets (@ReclaimTS) March 11, 2021
Responding to the group’s claims, the Met said the force remained in discussion with organisers about the event.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “We understand the public’s strength of feeling and are aware of the statement issued by Reclaim The Streets with regard to a planned vigil for Sarah Everard in Clapham Common this weekend.
“We remain in discussion with the organisers about this event in light of the current Covid regulations.”
Under the current Covid-19 lockdown in England, people are largely required to stay at home and can only gather in larger groups for limited reasons, such as funerals or for education.
Police can break up illegal gatherings and issue fines of £10,000 for someone holding a gathering of over 30 people.