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People shine phone camera lights at the protest in Clapham
People shine phone camera lights at the protest in Clapham
Image: PA

'Unspeakable scenes': Police criticised for tactics at London vigil for Sarah Everard

Hundreds of people had gathered to call for more to be done to tackle violence against women.
Mar 13th 2021, 9:34 PM 61,328 0

LONDON’S METROPOLITAN POLICE have been criticised for ‘disgusting and completely avoidable tactics’ after clashes at a vigil this evening for murdered woman Sarah Everard. 

Several people are believed to have been arrested after police tried to clear the vigil and urged people to go home.

One video posted online showed police officers grabbing women standing within the bandstand before leading them away, to screaming and shouting from onlookers.

Hundreds of people had gathered in Clapham Common in south London to call for more to be done to tackle violence against women following the death of Sarah Everard.

People had gathered despite a ban on planned vigils for the 33-year-old due to coronavirus restrictions in the UK. 

There were tense exchanges at times at the large gathering, which police had urged people not to attend.

Crowds of people made their way to Clapham Common’s bandstand at around 6pm on Saturday, with many laying flowers in what has become a growing floral tribute.

Some held placards reading “we will not be silenced” and “she was just walking home”, while the crowd chanted: “Sisters united will never be defeated.”

There were boos, jeers and shouts of “shame on you” from the crowd as Metropolitan Police officers walked on to the bandstand where some demonstrators were chanting.

Officers later walked through the crowd as people dispersed, encouraging those who were left to move away from the area once they had finished paying their respects.

One MP describing it as “heartbreaking and maddening to watch”.

Labour’s Sarah Owen added: “No one can see these scenes and think that this has been handled anything but badly by @metpoliceuk. It could and should have been so different.”

Charlotte Nichols, shadow minister for women and equalities, tweeted: “If @metpoliceuk had put the resources into assisting @ReclaimTS [which had originally request permission to hold the vigil] to hold the covid-secure vigil originally planned that they put into stopping any collective show of grief and solidarity (both through the courts and a heavy-handed physical response), we’d all be in a better place.”

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Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy tweeted footage of the clashes, adding: “This could have been the socially distanced vigil the community needed to remember Sarah and all the women who have lost their lives to violence. We knew what was going to happen if the event was shut down.”

 Concerns

Opening the online event, television presenter Sandi Toksvig said she had never “felt more passionately concerned about my kids”.

She said: “It surely cannot be asking too much to want them simply to be free, to walk where they like, when they like.

“I am filled in equal measure with profound sorrow and rage, and I know there are many who share this rage and I think it is entirely justifiable. But I also know that it will harm rather than help us if we don’t try and direct that anger to good purpose.”

She added that it was not a “small change” that was needed, but a “cultural shift about how women are viewed and treated both in the public and private space”.

“This has to be a turning point where ending violence finally becomes a political priority,” she said. 

The event took place hours after 48-year-old police constable Wayne Couzens appeared in court charged with Sarah Everard’s murder. The marketing executive’s body was found in woodland on Wednesday following her disappearance on 3 March.

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