St Albans Reclaim These Streets is cancelled

Light up a Life for Rennie Grove Hospice Care in memory of a loved one. Picture: Rennie Grove

Light up a Life for Rennie Grove Hospice Care in memory of a loved one. Picture: Rennie Grove - Credit: Archant

The planned Reclaim These Streets vigil in the centre of St Albans has been cancelled.

Organisers wanted to gather peacefully in the city centre for a period of reflection following the kidnap and suspected murder of Sarah Everard.

St Albans organiser Shannon Bridle, with the support of MP Daisy Cooper, had promised the event would observe social distancing and mask-wearing would be compulsory to ensure the safety of those involved and the wider community.

But after a High Court judge refused to intervene regarding the right to lawfully assemble during the current lockdown, she announced that the event would not be proceeding.

Shannon said: "It is with a heavy heart that I must relay that our event is henceforth cancelled. As an immigrant in this country who wishes to remain here and someone who certainly cannot afford a £10K fine, I have to make it abundantly and crystal clear please do not gather with anyone other than your bubble/household [this evening].

"The outpouring of support from Daisy Cooper, the women in the community, and even initially the police has been a significant sign to me that while we may not be able to express our hurt and outrage [tonight], I hope we may reconvene this event once restrictions have been eased.

"Personally, I will be going for my regular evening walk with a candle to leave at the Abbey for Sarah and all women who have been victims of abuse or violence.

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"I encourage you all to find a safe way within the COVID restrictions of doing something that is meaningful. I will look for links to digital vigils and am happy to create one on Zoom if anyone wishes to still share their stories with other women in our community.

"Watch this space as I know I will certainly be back to create a safe space for women in St Albans just as soon as I am able."

Sarah Everard vanished on her walk home from a friend’s house in Clapham on the evening of March 3. Serving Met police officer PC Wayne Couzens has been charged with her kidnap and murder.

Daisy Cooper MP had argued that the vigil should go ahead: “Our thoughts are with Sarah Everard’s family and friends at this incredibly difficult time.

“I fully support the Reclaim These Streets movement – all women should be able to walk the streets free of fear, without looking over their shoulders or clutching their keys between their fingers. Sadly, this is not the case.

“It is deeply worrying that, whilst restrictions are starting to ease, the Government is trying to curtail the right to protest, despite the fact that it is obligated to facilitate protests happening safely."

Sam North, Liberal Democrat candidate for Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, added: “As a former police officer, I am only too aware of the dangers that women face when walking our streets. It is incredibly saddening that years of inaction is only now being highlighted after the death of an innocent young woman who had her entire life in front of her.

“Action must be taken, and it’s right in my view that people should be allowed to protest such an important issue that’s been ignored for so many years.

“Women’s voices should not be silenced, particularly after such a difficult week.”