Council leaders condemn Met Police’s ‘manhandling’ of women at Sarah Everard vigil

Ms Everard, 33, vanished near Clapham Common on March 3 after leaving a friend’s home to walk home.  

Police officer Wayne Couzens was charged with her murder and kidnap after her body was found in a builder’s bag in Ashford woodland.  

A vigil for Ms Everard on Clapham Common- organised by Reclaim These Streets – was cancelled after police threatened to fine organisers £10,000 for breaching Covid-19 rules.  

Thousands of people showed up anyway to show support but the evening was marred after police detained women at the vigil.  

The Prime Minister has since said he was “deeply concerned” about the footage of the events.  

Thousands of protesters went to Parliament Square on Sunday after the police clash at the vigil.  

The Met Police has defended its actions, claiming “hundreds of people were packed tightly together, posing a very real risk of easily transmitting Covid-19”.  

Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick also resisted calls for her resignation, saying she was even “more determined” to lead the organisation 

But the responses have been criticised as “inadequate”, while the Home Secretary and Mayor of London have both called for an independent investigation into the force’s actions.  

Cllr Jacqui Dyer, Lambeth’s cabinet member for jobs, skills, and community safety, and Cllr Jack Hopkins, leader of Lambeth Council, slammed the actions of police at the vigil.  

In a joint statement they said: “We are shocked and appalled at the treatment by the Metropolitan Police of women attending [the] vigil on Clapham Common for Sarah Everard.  

“This event could have been a peaceful and respectful opportunity to pay tribute to Sarah’s memory and for the voices of women and girls to be heard.  

“Instead, the senior leadership of the Metropolitan Police refused to engage with Reclaim These Streets and tried to clamp down, infringing on the rights of assembly of women and girls and causing even more pain in an already deeply painful week. 

“We have sought clarity from the police – their responses and the official statement from the Metropolitan Police are completely inadequate.  

“We are now calling for an independent investigation into the actions of the senior Metropolitan Police leadership and the decisions that led to the disgraceful policing of the vigil.  

“Policing by consent, fully accountable to the community and trusted by it is something we have always strived to ensure exists in Lambeth.  

“The actions of the senior leadership of the Metropolitan Police have done immense damage to that in the last few days.  

“This time should be about remembering Sarah Everard and the task we all face in creating a society where all women and girls are safe and free.  

“This is our commitment in Lambeth and we will continue to ensure that the institutions that we work with, including the police, live up to that.” 

Cllr Kieron Williams, leader of Southwark Council, put out a joint statement with Evelyn Akoto, cabinet member for community safety and public health, and Cllr Alice MacDonald, cabinet member for equalities and communities.  

They said they were “shocked and saddened” by the murder of Ms Everard.  

“Our thoughts are with her family, friends and loved ones and with all the women who have been subject to and are survivors of violence.  

“Along with so many others, including our fellow councillors in Lambeth, we are outraged about the Met’s policing of the event on Clapham Common last night. We want to clearly state our condemnation of the policing of Saturday’s vigil.  

“The treatment of women – who simply wanted to express their sadness, sympathy, and to stand together in solidarity was totally unacceptable.  

“The Met have done themselves a great disservice by failing to respect the vigil for Sarah.  

“The organisers – Reclaim These Streets – did everything they possibly could to find a way to hold the vigil in a safe, socially distanced way.  

“The police should have worked with them to find a solution; instead the senior leadership of the Met did not constructively engage with them. 

“What should have been a peaceful vigil to remember Sarah Everard and the many, many women who have been killed and abused by men turned into shocking scenes of police manhandling women.  

“Saturday should have been an opportunity for the police to begin rebuilding trust, but instead they let women down and caused more hurt and pain.  

“The statements issued by the Metropolitan Police this morning were a completely inadequate response.  

“We urgently want to know what the Metropolitan Police intend to do to make our communities safe for women and girls.  

“We back the calls from the Mayor of London and our colleagues at Lambeth for a full independent investigation of what took place.  

“For too long the policing and criminal justice system has let down women. That must change – beginning today.  

“We all have a responsibility to do whatever we can to tackle the scourge of violence, which affects one in every three women worldwide.  

“Over the next few weeks we will be setting out what more we will be doing to across Southwark to tackle violence against women and girls to address women’s safety.  

“We finish this statement as we began with the name of Sarah Everard. We remember her and every single woman who has lost their life to violence,” they said. 

Before the unofficial vigil took place, Cllr Brenda Dacres, Lewisham’s cabinet member for safer communities, said what happened to Ms Everard is “utterly horrifying”.  

“And my heart goes out to her friends and family, who must be feeling unimaginable pain.  

“Women should feel safe to walk home and spend time in public spaces but what happened to Sarah has affected so many of us because, disturbingly, feeling unsafe is all too common for women and girls.  

“It’s important these conversations continue and I am talking to partners across Lewisham about how we can act to help women feel safer,” she said. 

 


 

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