A vigil for Sarah Everard in south London has been cancelled and organisers said details of a “virtual gathering” will be announced instead.
Reclaim These Streets had been planning to host a demonstration on Clapham Common in south London on Saturday, near to where the 33-year-old, whose body was formally identified on Friday, went missing.
But organisers said that despite their attempts to work with police to ensure the vigil could go ahead safely, they now felt it could not go ahead.
In a tweet on Saturday morning the group said: “We have been very disappointed that given the many opportunities to engage with organisers constructively, the Metropolitan Police have been unwilling to commit to anything.
“While we have had positive discussions with the Lambeth officers present, those from Scotland Yard would not engage with our suggestions to help ensure that a legal, Covid-secure vigil could take place.”
They added that “in light of the lack of constructive engagement from the Metropolitan Police, we do not feel that we can in good faith allow tonight’s event to go ahead”.
Caitlin Prowle, one of the Reclaim These Streets organisers, said the group did not want to end up in a situation they were having to raise funds to pay fines.
She said: “The police’s lack of co-operation and unwillingness to engage with us to find a compromise means that we can’t go forward in good faith.
“We can’t put our supporters at risk, quite frankly we can’t put ourselves at risk in that way, and so really they’ve left us with no other option.”
She added: “We are not willing to go to this amazing community and say we need you to help us with our hundreds of thousands of pounds in fines.”
She said the money “will just go straight back into a system” that “continues to fail” women.
A fundraising page set up on Saturday morning by the Reclaim These Streets campaign had already raised more than £50,000 in around three hours.
The campaign said it was aiming to raise £320,000 for women’s charities – representing the total fines the organisers said they were told they would face should the planned protests go ahead.
The page reads: “We were told that pressing ahead could risk a £10,000 fine each for each woman organising. Even if we came to this amazing community for help in meeting those costs, we think that this would be a poor use of our and your money.
“We do not want to see hundreds of thousands of pounds contributed to a system that consistently fails to keep women safe – either in public spaces or in the privacy of their homes. Women’s rights are too important.”
Commenting on the passing of the £40,000 threshold, organiser Jamie Klingler tweeted: “Guess this is what it feels like to create a movement.”
Reclaim These Streets said they would “strongly encourage people not to gather this evening on Clapham Common”.
They added: “We will be announcing the details of a virtual gathering later today and would encourage all those originally planning to join us on Clapham Common to take part.”
On Friday, a High Court judge refused to intervene on behalf of the group in a legal challenge over the right to gather for a protest during coronavirus restrictions.
People had vowed to attend the London event, despite the Metropolitan Police warning the public they should “stay at home or find a lawful and safer way to express your views”.
Some female MPs called on authorities to ensure women could safely protest in Sarah Everard’s memory and questioned the Government’s proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which campaigners fear will stifle peaceful protest.
Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy, who represents Streatham in south-east London, tweeted: “The police decision to shut down tonight’s vigil & refuse to constructively engage with @ReclaimTS is deeply wrong.
“Women should not face arrest for showing solidarity. On Monday, the Govt will put down a Bill to further restrict the right to protest.”
Liberal Democrats deputy leader Daisy Cooper tweeted: “It is the Govt’s responsibility to ensure people can protest safely.
“Women around the UK wanted to stand in silence, 2m apart, w/masks. They’ve been threatened with whopping £10k fines. On Mon, Govt will introduce new laws to curb protests further. Really?”
She posted a picture from last year’s Black Lives Matter protests in her constituency of St Albans, where hundreds of people were “socially distanced, in masks, policed proportionately”,
“Last night, a group of 30 young women who wanted to #ReclaimTheStreets in #StAlbans, 2m apart, in masks, were told they would face £10k fines,” Cooper wrote.
Some campaigners said they still planned to attend the Clapham vigil despite the organisers’ cancellation.
Sisters Uncut, which campaigns to prevent violence against women, tweeted: “We will still be attending tonight’s event in memory of #SarahEverard and all those killed by gendered and state violence. We hope you do too. See you at Clapham Common at 6pm.”
It added in a further post: “We are angry. We will not be controlled. We will not be silenced.”