Police Criticised for 'Unacceptable' Shutdown of Sarah Everard Vigil

The police "got it wrong at every turn", said Labour's Shadow Domestic Violence Minister Jess Phillips.
March 14, 2021, 11:42am
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All Photos by Chris Bethell

Several hundred people in London attended a vigil last night in memory of Sarah Everard, as doorstep and virtual events were held throughout the country. Footage shared on social media shows police in London using force against peaceful women protesters and making multiple arrests. 

The Metropolitan Police have been widely criticised for their part in shutting down the vigil shortly after nightfall and pulling demonstrators away from the scene, for which London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he is "urgently seeking an explanation."

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CHRIS BETHELL

He added that Saturday night's police response was "unacceptable," and that he was looking for answers from Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick.

Jess Phillips, Labour's Shadow Domestic Violence Minister, said the force had "got it wrong at every single turn".

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She told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "There are a million ways that could have been organised, but the police put their foot down before they put their boot in and at every stage they made the wrong call."

Everard, 33, was last seen walking home through the south London area of Clapham before she went missing last week. On Saturday, a serving Metropolitan Police officer appeared in court charged with her kidnap and murder.

Police cancelled the original vigil scheduled for yesterday on Clapham Common, calling the gathering "unlawful". However, activist group Sisters Uncut – who campaign against cuts to domestic violence services – tweeted that they would "still be attending tonight’s event in memory of Sarah Everard and all those killed by gendered and state violence”.

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CHRIS BETHELL

Members were joined by hundreds more peaceful mourners, who gathered to lay flowers and leave cards, one of which read #IAmSarah. Some held placards, reading "she was just walking home" and "we will not be silenced". 

Police descended onto Clapham Common bandstand at around 6.30PM and were met with chants of "shame on you" as they attempted to force the crowds to go home.

Multiple videos on social media show women protesters being arrested and forced to the ground. 

A tweet shared by Sisters Uncut alleges that "male police officers waited for the sun to set before they started grabbing and manhandling women in the crowd".

In a statement, Met Police Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball said "Hundreds of people were packed tightly together, posing a very real risk of easily transmitting COVID-19."

She continued: "Police must act for people's safety, this is the only responsible thing to do." 

"We absolutely did not want to be in a position where enforcement action was necessary. But we were placed in this position because of the over-riding need to protect people's safety."

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