Violent clashes between police and mourners erupted in south London on Saturday night when crowds defied the city’s coronavirus lockdown order to mourn the alleged murder of Sarah Everard earlier this this month.
What started as a peaceful protest in residential Clapham Common became controversial hours after Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, visited the memorial to pay tribute to the 33-year-old marketing executive, who was reportedly killed as she returned home earlier this month.
Participants reportedly started shouting “Shame on you!” to the police who tried to interrupt the vigil, in defiance of a broad ban on gatherings.
Some in the crowd held placards with messages such as “We will not be silenced”, “We live in fear” and “Women’s rights are human rights”, while others brandished anti slogans. -police. A police officer has been charged with the alleged murder of Everard.
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Officers came under heavy criticism after images of police officers “abusing” and aggressively handcuffing mourners surfaced during the vigil.
Videos showed officers arguing with attendees as they made their way through the crowd. At one point, several male officers grabbed several women and took them away in handcuffs to screams and screams from onlookers, the British Press Association reported.
“Appalling scenes at Clapham Common last night,” tweeted Diane Abbott, Member of Parliament. “Women in peaceful vigil over male violence brutally manhandled and handcuffed by police officers.”
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said she had asked the Metropolitan Police for a “full report on what had happened”, and some called on Police Commissioner Cressida Dick to resign , according to an ITV News reporter in London.
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“The scenes at Clapham Common are unacceptable,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted. “The police are responsible for enforcing the Covid laws, but from the footage I have seen it is clear that the response was sometimes neither appropriate nor proportionate. I am in contact with the Commissioner and am seeking urgently an explanation. ”
Four people were reportedly arrested during the vigil.
Scotland Yard defended the officers’ actions, saying they were “placed in a position where law enforcement was needed” due to the threat of the virus, the Evening Standard in London reported.
In a statement, the deputy police commissioner said officers were “faced with a very difficult decision” during the vigil. “Hundreds of people were very close to each other, posing a very real risk of easily transmitting Covid-19. The police must act for the safety of the people, it is the only responsible thing to do. The pandemic is not over and gatherings of people from all over London and beyond are still not safe. “
She continued, “We absolutely did not want to be in a position where coercive action was needed. But we were placed in this position because of the overwhelming need to protect the safety of people.” She added that the vast majority of attendees left after speaking with officers.
Everard was reportedly kidnapped and murdered after leaving a friend’s house in the area on March 3 at around 9 p.m. A London policeman has been charged with his murder after his remains were found about 50 miles away in Kent on Friday.
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The murder has attracted international attention and raised awareness of violence against women and the dangers they sometimes face in daily activities like walking down a street at night.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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