The Metropolitan Police has been criticised for “grabbing and manhandling” women at a vigil in memory of Sarah Everard following clashes with mourners and protestors at London’s Clapham Common.
Scuffles broke out when officers tried to remove speakers from a bandstand covered with floral tributes for the 33-year-old at what had been a peaceful vigil, attended by more than 1,000.
Organisers had sought to hold a formal vigil but were denied by the Metropolitan Police due to coronavirus restrictions, with Met commissioner Dame Cressida Dick saying any vigil “would be unlawful and would be unsafe.”
Calls are now growing for Dick’s resignation following the scenes as video footage emerged on social media showing her officers dragging women away from the bandstand as chants of “shame on you” rang out.
‘Dick has lost the confidence of millions of women,’ says Davey
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called the scenes “deeply disturbing” while Sadiq Khan, the London mayor who is responsible for policing in the capital, said the officers’ actions were “at times neither appropriate or proportionate”.
Ed Davey, the leader of the Lib Dems has already written to Dick, calling for her resignation as Met Police Commissioner. He said: “Cressida Dick has lost the confidence of the millions of women in London and should resign.
“The scenes this evening of the policing of the Clapham Common vigil in memory of Sarah Everard are utterly disgraceful and shame the Metropolitan Police.”
Home secretary Priti Patel tweeted: “Some of the footage circulating online from the vigil in Clapham is upsetting. I have asked the Metropolitan Police for a full report on what happened. My thoughts remain with Sarah’s family and friends at this terrible time.”
Earlier, the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton paid her respects at the bandstand on Clapham Common, with a palace official saying she “remembers what it was like to walk around London at night before she was married.”
Met officer charged with kidnapping and murder
Just hours before today’s clashes on Clapham Common, Wayne Couzens, a 48-year-old serving Metropolitan police constable officer appeared in court charged with kidnapping and murdering Sarah Everard. The firearms officer – who works in the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command – has been remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on Tuesday (March 16).
Sarah Everard disappeared on March 3, while walking home in South London. A week later her body was found inside a builders’ bag in woodland in Kent.
Vigils held across UK
Peaceful vigils have been held in locations across the UK in her memory and to call for more action to be taken to tackle violence against women in the UK – with people also encouraged to take part in a virtual event, using their gardens or doorsteps and lighting candles.
Boris Johnson earlier tweeted that he and his fiancée Carrie Symonds “will be lighting a candle for Sarah Everard and thinking of her family and friends.”
Sarah Everard’s disappearance sparked a wider discussion about women’s daily experience of life in the UK, with details of the harassment and abuse encountered culminating in a debate at Westminster during which Labour MP Jess Philips, shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding read out the names of victims.
On Saturday night, Philips tweeted: “I am on my doorstep. Sad and angry and determined that our lives and our liberty have got to matter more than they do today. Tonight is for Sarah, her family and all who feel the loss.”