Women’s protest called off by police

Women’s protest called off by police

Resident Leah Burfoot would have gone to the “Reclaim These Streets” event. Instead, she took part in a nationwide doorstep vigil

17th March 2021

By Warren Wilkins

A planned protest in Newquay about women’s safety in the wake of the death of Sarah Everard was cancelled after police warned they would enforce covid regulations if people gathered.

The Women’s Centre Cornwall was due to stage a “Reclaim These Streets” demonstration at the Barrowfields.

But organisers decided to call off the event after Newquay police told them people attending would be asked to leave and could be arrested if they refused.

More than 230 people had expressed an interest on social media in standing socially distanced, with a banner and a light, to demand safety and show solidarity with women across the UK following the death of Sarah Everard. The 33-year-old went missing in London while walking home from a friend’s house on March 3.

Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, has been charged with her kidnap and murder.

Policing of a vigil at Clapham Common in London on Saturday was criticised for being heavy-handed.

The Women’s Centre Cornwall appealed to people to stage a doorstep vigil instead.

The organisation plans to stage a covid-secure gathering as soon as regulations allow.

Beth Williams, the open spaces co-ordinator at the centre, said: “On Friday, we had no choice but to cancel the vigil as we were informed by Newquay Police who advised us that they, along with the National Police Council, are not in support of any vigils taking place across the UK as they will be in breach of covid regulations, despite the Met and other authorities initially being in support.

“The police advised that if anyone attended the Barrowfields with the intention of attending the vigil they would be asked to leave. If people refused they would enforce this.

“This is extremely sad, difficult and enraging as there were thousands of people across the country who were prepared to use this moment to show solidarity and demand safety for women and girls in a covid-secure way.”

Resident Leah Burfoot was planning to attend the event but staged a doorstep vigil after it was cancelled.

She said: “I wanted to show sisterhood and support, to Sarah and all victims who never made it home.

“To demand safety for women and girls. To shine a light to remember Sarah Everard and all the women affected by and lost to male violence.

“We need to stand together in solidarity to make a lasting change for women and girls.”

A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesperson said: “The organisers were contacted with police concerns that the vigil might be in breach of regulations in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

“We would like to thank the organisers for their considerate response in postponing the event and all members of the public who showed support in alternative ways.”

Beth Williams said the action was organised “to acknowledge that women do not feel safe on our streets, online, in their homes or places of work” and “to honour all women who have been harassed, stalked, abused, violated and taken and to stand in solidarity with the women of Clapham Common and around the UK following the death of Sarah Everard”.

She said: “As an organisation we have been holding demonstrations and vigils for over 25 years to demand safety for women and honour the women and girls whose lives have been taken.

“One in two women have experienced online abuse since the beginning of covid, and the World Wide Web foundation cites a pandemic of violence against women and girls in online spaces, taking many forms such as violent threats, digital surveillance, sexual harassment, the sharing of intimate images without consent, and revenge porn.

“The Femicide Census 10-year report shows between 2009 and 2018, on average a woman’s life was taken every three days in the UK.

“These murders are often treated as isolated incidents as opposed to the reality – a global epidemic of violence against women and girls.

“Since Sarah Everard’s case came to light, women across the UK and beyond have been sharing and reflecting on what needs to change in order for us to feel safe in all spaces we inhabit.”

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