London Police Commissioner says she will not resign, defends officers’ actions at vigil for Sarah Everard.
The London Police Commissioner has defended the actions of her officers and said she has no plans to step down amid a backlash over how police treated some protesters at a vigil for a woman whose alleged murderer is a police officer.
London police faced fierce criticism from the public and politicians on Sunday for their harsh tactics in disrupting the vigil.
The disappearance of Sarah Everard, 33, as she returned home on the evening of March 3, caused a huge wave of grief and dismay in the UK over the inability of the police and society at large to combat violence against women.
Police had refused permission for a vigil on Saturday night at Clapham Common in London, near where Everard was last seen alive, citing regulations aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
But hundreds of people, mostly women, gathered peacefully at the park in defiance of the ban on honoring Everard throughout the day, including Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.
Late Saturday, dozens of police marched through the crowd shouting “shame on you”. Scuffles broke out and officers dragged several women away from the scene.
Interior Minister Priti Patel, the minister responsible for the police, described the images of the incident as “heartbreaking”. The BBC reported that it had ordered an independent investigation after an initial police report left some questions unanswered.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said he was “not satisfied” with the chiefs’ explanations of the events and that the conduct of the police needed to be examined. An image of officers handcuffing a woman while she was lying on the floor has been widely shared and condemned on social media.
Police were seen fighting with women during the event, and a woman was seen pinned to the ground by two officers. A video widely shared on social media showed a woman being pulled from the ground by officers, who then pushed her from behind.
Several women were taken away in handcuffs. The force later said four people had been arrested for violating public order and coronavirus regulations.
On Sunday, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, who is the first woman to lead the force, said she was “more determined than ever” to lead the organization.
She said she fully understood the strength of sentiment in response to Everard’s case, but stressed that Saturday’s vigil was an illegal gathering and the officers were put in a “very difficult position.”
My full statement following my meeting with the Met Commissioner to discuss the policing of the vigil at Clapham Common last night: pic.twitter.com/lagvqVNSDf
– Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) March 14, 2021
Everard’s murder resonated with women across the country, prompting thousands to share their experiences of male violence and sexual assault on social media, and to vividly describe the daily fear that ‘they feel.
A steady stream of silent mourners visited the site of the vigil on Sunday, placing flowers around a bandstand.
Nadim Baba, of Al Jazeera, which reports from London, said it was a “peaceful rally”.
“But the emotion was clear, they were denouncing what they saw as police brutality, brutal tactics and deafness of what happened on Saturday night,” Baba reported.
Patsy Stevenson, who was pictured pinned to the ground by two officers during Saturday’s clashes, said she plans to challenge the 200-pound ($ 278) fine she received.
‘We were there to remember Sarah, we all felt deeply saddened and continue to make this happen so I brought a candle with me but unfortunately I couldn’t even get it. turn on to put it down because the police arrived and broke in. through, ”she told LBC radio.
Police officer Wayne Couzens accused of Everard’s murder appeared in court on Saturday. Police found his body on Wednesday in a forest about 80 km south-east of London. The court heard that his body was found in a builder’s garbage bag and identified using dental records.