The London police come under fire of criticism this Sunday, after their intervention during an unauthorized tribute to a young Londoner kidnapped and killed, case in which a police officer is indicted. Clashes erupted early Saturday evening between police officers and some participants who had gathered there for a vigil by candles or cell phone lights.
The footage of the police restraining and handcuffing some participants has prompted many convictions and a feeling of disgust, which adds to the intense emotion aroused by the disappearance of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old executive. , as she walked home.
“Male violence” singled out
The Reclaim these streets movement, which initially organized the event before canceling it for lack of compromise with the police, condemned the action of the police officers who “physically abused women during a vigil against male violence”. Home Secretary Priti Patel and Labor Mayor of London Sadiq Khan demanded an explanation from the police on their handling of the event.
The leader of the Liberal Democrats has meanwhile called on London Police Chief Cressida Dick to resign, saying she had “lost the trust of millions of women in London”. For Labor opposition leader Keir Starmer, Saturday’s events are “deeply disturbing”. “It was not a good method of policing,” he tweeted.
A necessary action, the police defend themselves
In a statement overnight from Saturday to Sunday, Deputy Commissioner Helen Ball defended the action of the police, assuring that the situation was such that his intervention was “necessary”. “Hundreds of people were massed, posing a real risk” of transmission of Covid-19, which has killed more than 125,000 in the United Kingdom, the heaviest toll in Europe. “We repeatedly urged those who were there to comply with the law and leave,” claiming that a “small minority of people” started chanting slogans, pushing the police and throwing projectiles at them.
Despite the event being canceled due to the restrictions in place against the coronavirus, a crowd gathered on Saturday from late afternoon in the London Borough of Clapham, in which Sarah Everard has disappeared ten days ago. His body was found in a wood in Kent (south-east). An officer with the London Police Unit responsible for protecting diplomatic representations, Wayne Couzens, 48, was charged on Friday evening with kidnapping and murder.
Events across the UK
Earlier in the day on Saturday, Prince William’s wife, Kate, visited the bandstand in Clapham, south London, which has become a place of meditation for Sarah Everard. Bouquets of flowers and messages accumulate there. A candle was lit on Saturday evening on the steps of 10 Downing Street, home of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Events were also held in several cities, Glasgow, Nottingham, Birmingham and Bristol. A feminist movement, Sisters uncut, called for a demonstration outside Scotland Yard on Sunday afternoon. On Saturday evening, the prize pool launched by Reclaim these streets reached its goal of raising 320,000 pounds sterling (372,000 euros) for causes in favor of women, corresponding to the fine of 10,000 pounds sterling (11,600 euros) incurred by the organizers multiplied by the number of places where events were to be held. The movement seized justice on Friday to challenge the refusal of the London police to let the event take place on Saturday, to no avail.