British PM Johnson 'deeply concerned' at footage of police breaking up vigil

Clay Curtis
March 15, 2021

"We understand the strength of feeling and people's desire to come together to mourn and show respect to Sarah Everard as well as to make a statement and organise on the issue of women's safety".

A 33-year-old marketing manager, Everard disappeared on the evening of 3 March, while walking through London's Clapham borough from a friend's home.

An image of officers handcuffing a woman on Saturday night as she lay on the floor was widely shared and condemned on social media.

Home Secretary Priti Patel, the minister in charge of policing, described footage of the incident as "upsetting" and said she had asked police for a full report on what happened.

Large crowds swarmed inside Parliament Square in London last night as calls for the Met Police chief to resign grow over the force's handling of a vigil for Sarah Everard. "The police have a responsibility to enforce Covid laws but from images I've seen it's clear the response was at times neither appropriate nor proportionate", he said.

Sadiq Khan, the Labour Mayor of London, said the scenes were "unacceptable" and that he was "urgently seeking an explanation" from the commissioner.

Reclaim These Streets had organised the vigil before being forced to cancel following consultation with the Metropolitan Police, which said it would be in breach in coronavirus restrictions.

DW correspondent Charlotte Chelsom-Pill, who was at the vigil, said that she and her team saw several people being carried away by police. She added that officers had repeatedly encouraged those attending to leave, but "a small minority" of people chanted at police, pushing and throwing objects. "In my view, this was not the case", Mr. Khan said.

"If we focus resources and work around the prevention, that's when we can really start to eradicate this from our society", she added.

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According to the New York Times, London's Metropolitan Police (also called Scotland Yard or Met) then searched around 750 homes in South London, as well as the ponds in Clapham Commons park, and subsequently extended their search to the county of Kent in southeastern England.

The murder has sparked worldwide attention and brought awareness to violence against women and the dangers they sometimes face in everyday activities like walking down a street at night.

"We absolutely did not want to be in a position where enforcement action was necessary".

Heated clashes between police and mourners broke out Saturday evening in South London when a crowd of people defied the city's coronavirus lockdown order to mourn the suspected murder of Sarah Everard earlier this month.

Jamie Klingler, who organized the cancelled "Reclaim These Streets" event, blamed police for denying women their right to have a silent vigil in the first place.

"I think we were shocked and really, really sad and to see videos of policemen handling women at a vigil about violence against women by men".

"We were there to remember Sarah, we all felt deeply saddened and still do that it happened, so I brought a candle with me but unfortunately wasn't even able to light it to put it down because the police turned up and barged their way through", she told LBC radio.

Appearing at London's Westminster Magistrates' Court on Saturday morning, 48-year-old police officer Wayne Couzens, wearing a grey tracksuit, spoke only to confirm his identity. Everard went missing as she was walking home by herself on March 3, and her body was found nine days later about 50 miles from where she was last seen, according to CNN.

Couzens joined the Metropolitan Police in 2018 and guarded foreign embassies before his arrest. "This was a complete, abject, tactical and moral failure on the part of the police", he said in a letter to the commissioner.

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