The Duchess of Cambridge has visited Clapham Common this afternoon to join mourners laying flowers in tribute to Sarah Everard.
The unexpected visit came after a planned vigil was cancelled, with organisers citing the Met Police’s ‘lack of constructive engagement’ to help make it Covid secure.
Kensington Palace said Kate Middleton ‘wanted to pay her respects to the family and to Sarah’, reported Sky. ‘She remembers what is was like to walk around London at night before she was married,’ the palace added.
Groups of mourners gathered to lay dozens of tributes at a grandstand in Clapham Common – where Sarah was last seen alive before her disappearance.
Some mourners broke down in tears as they paid their respects to the 33-year-old marketing manager who disappeared on her way home from visiting a friend on March 3.
A Reclaim These Streets event was due to be held tonight at the bandstand on Clapham Common, near where the 33-year-old went missing, but organisers yesterday failed to secure a High Court ruling that lockdown – which bans gatherings – should not stop their right to protest.
Kensington Palace said Kate (pictured) ‘wanted to pay her respects to the family and to Sarah’, reported Sky . ‘She remembers what is was like to walk around London at night before she was married,’ the palace added
The vigil was planned for Saturday in memory of marketing executive Sarah Everard, who disappeared while walking home to Brixton on March 3
Dozens of floral tributes have been left on Clapham Common as mourners have gathered to pay their respects where Sarah Everard was last seen before her disappearance on March 3
Mourners seen in tears at the memorial site near Clapham Common bandstand this afternoon
People mourn at a memorial site for Sarah Everard at the Clapham Common Bandstand
Pictured: A photograph of Sarah Everard is left with floral tributes and messages in London
A sign reads ‘Men, do better. Protect all women’ is among flowers at the memorial site
People mourn at a memorial site on Clapham Common, following Sarah’s kidnap and murder
There was a strong police presence at the event as dozens of people gathered to lay flowers
Reclaim These Streets is asking people to hold a ‘doorstep vigil’ at 9.30pm this evening and to shine a light in Sarah’s memory
Police officers watch on as people continue to leave flowers and tributes for Sarah Everard at the Bandstand where planned and organised vigil tonight has been cancelled
People gathered to bring flowers to Clapham Common after a planned organisation was cancelled
Women paid their respects to Sarah Everard at Clapham Common
Yesterday Scotland Yard confirmed human remains found in Kent belonged to marketing executive Ms Everard.
Serving police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, was remanded in custody after appearing in Westminster Magistrates’ court today charged with kidnap and murder.
Police had previously warned that each vigil organiser faced a £10,000 fine if events went ahead, the group claimed, adding it did not want to be forced to give money to ‘a system that consistently fails to keep women safe’.
This morning a statement said: ‘We have been very disappointed that given the many opportunities to engage with the organisers constructively, the Metropolitan Police have been unable to commit to anything.’
The organisation is now urging people to take part in a doorstep vigil tonight at 9.30pm.
The group has asked people to ‘shine a light – a candle, a torch, a phone – to remember Sarah Everard and all the women affected by and lost to violence’.
Police officers bring floral tributes, left by the public, to the site as Met Police continue their search near Great Chart, Kent
Police had warned that each organiser faced a £10k fine if the vigil went ahead, the group claimed after it cancelled the event
One of the dozens of messages and cards left at the memorial site on Clapham Common in tribute to Sarah Everard
Mourners for the life of murdered 33-year-old Sarah Everard, whose remains were found this week in woodland in Kent
Pictured: A message of condolence is seen as mourners for the life of murdered 33-year-old Sarah Everard
Commander Catherine Roper, the Met’s lead for community engagement responded that officers had held a number of ‘challenging talks’ with the organisers.
She added: ‘While we understand their frustrations of this cancellation and share the nation’s outrage at this crime, we must all continue to work together to fight Covid-19 and keep each other safe.’
Calling off the event, Reclaim These Streets said it would aim to fundraise £320,000 for women’s causes, equal to £10,000 for every proposed fine for the 32 vigils.
More than £50,000 was raised in the first three hours of the Just Giving page going live.
A virtual vigil is also being coordinated, while a decision on similar events outside of London, that fall under different police forces, will be made later.
Organisers said they had made ‘every effort’ to pull off the vigil to ‘balance our right as women to freedom of expression’ with the current Covid curbs.
The group brought an urgent action in a bid for a declaration that any ban on outdoor gatherings under coronavirus regulations is ‘subject to the right to protest’, and thus the vigil should be allowed to happen.
Mr Justice Holgate declined to grant the group’s request and also refused to make a declaration that an alleged policy by the force of ‘prohibiting all protests, irrespective of the specific circumstances’ is unlawful.
Reclaim These Streets resolved to continue discussions with the Met, which ordered people not to gather but ‘to find a safe alternative way to express their views’.
Caitlin Prowle, one of the Reclaim These Streets organisers, said they 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.’
Flowers have been laid at the bandstand all day, with some women saying they would still be attending this evening.
A High Court judge last night refused to intervene on behalf of the group in a legal challenge over the right to gather for a protest during coronavirus restrictions
Reclaim These Streets added: ‘We were told that pressing ahead could risk a £10,000 fine each for each woman organising.’
While confident they could raise the money to foot the cost of fines, they said it would be a ‘poor use’ of funds.
‘We do not want to see hundreds of thousands of pounds contributed to a system that consistently fails to keep women safe,’ they said.
MPs also expressed regret at the decision and called for laws on freedom of assembly during the pandemic to be clarified.
Senior Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, who had previously said she asked Home Secretary Priti Patel to ‘step in’ and allow the vigil to go ahead, said she hoped people would now take the advice of organisers to gather virtually instead.
She told BBC Breakfast: ‘It is important that women come together. We can do that virtually and recognise the ongoing issue there is with violence against women and girls, perpetrated by men, but do it in a Covid-safe way.’
Passersby leave tributes and flowers around the Clapham Common bandstand, where the vigil was planned to take place
Flowers were laid at the bandstand this morning, with some women saying they would still be attending this evening
Labour’s Harriet Harman, who chairs the Joint Committee on Human Rights, said the law on freedom of association amid the coronavirus pandemic should be clarified.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We have said previously that the law on this should be made clearer.
‘The relationship between the Human Rights Act and its protection of freedom of association and the new Covid regulations has not been clearly spelt out.’
Last night, home office minister Victoria Atkins urged people thinking of rallying to stay at home.
The Tory MP said: ‘I would love to go marching in Clapham but we are in the middle of this pandemic and the law is as it is.’
She said she would mark the event at her front door, ‘reclaiming an albeit very small piece of pavement’.
Commander Roper said: ‘I would like to thank the organisers of tonight’s vigil in Clapham Common for cancelling the gathering. Since Sarah’s disappearance, we have shared Londoners anguish, shock and sadness at the truly awful circumstances of her disappearance and death.
‘I know that yesterday’s ruling would have been unwelcome news for the organisers and to those who were hoping to join others in tribute to Sarah and to make a stand on violence against women.
‘While it is clear we cannot do this together on Clapham Common, I know there are various others ways to mourn Sarah in a safe way.’