Johnson ‘Deeply Concerned’ Over Clashes During Sarah Everard Vigil

The UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday said he’s “deeply concerned” over footage showing clashes between police and protesters at a vigil for alleged murder victim Sarah Everard.

The Metropolitan police on Saturday drew public criticisms and faced an official inquiry after officers clashed with and tackled to the ground protesters gathered at a memorial for Everard at Clapham Common, London, defying the government’s CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus restrictions.

Sarah Everard vigil clash
Police officers scuffle with people gathering at a band-stand where a planned vigil in honour of alleged murder victim Sarah Everard was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions, on Clapham Common, south London, on March 13, 2021. (Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

“Like everyone who saw it I was deeply concerned about the footage from Clapham Common on Saturday night,” Johnson said in a statement.

Johnson said that Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick had committed to reviewing the police action, and that Home Secretary Priti Patel had ordered a review to learn lessons on how to improve policing of such events in the future.

Patel is due to make a ministerial statement to Parliament on Monday afternoon, on policing and the prevention of violence against women.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick
London’s Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick in Hendon, London, on April 21, 2017. (Hannah McKayWPA Pool/Getty Images)

Dick on Sunday defended her officers’ actions and declined to resign.

Kit Malthouse, the minister for crime and policing, was asked on Sky News if he backed calls for Dick to resign.

“No I don’t,” he said.

“I do recognise that the police are in an incredibly difficult position, I mean throughout this pandemic, we’ve asked them to do a job that they’ve never done before, and to stand between the public and this terrible virus, in a way that none of us are used to,” Malthouse said.

Sarah Everard
Sarah Everard, wearing the coat she wore on the night she went missing. (Met Police)

Everard, 33, disappeared on March 3 near Clapham Common, London, while walking home at around 9 p.m. Her body was found a week later in a woodland outside of London. A Met police officer, 48-year-old Wayne Couzens, was charged with the kidnap and murder of Everard.

UK Police In A Pickle

The Met was criticised for its actions at the Saturday vigil, partly because it took a different approach from that during Black Lives Matter protests last summer, when some officers took a knee in support of the protesters.

The alleged murder of Everard by a Met police officer sparked fear and distrust toward the police force. After officers searching for Everard reportedly warned women in the area to “be careful”, and “not to go out alone”, the focus of debate partly shifted to gender relations, and the police officers arresting of female mourners and protesters has been described as “man-handling“.

Sarah Everard protest 1 defund the police
Protesters holding signing reading “DEFUND THE POLICE” and “END STATE VIOLENCE” after the death of Sarah Everard, who was allegedly kidnapped and murdered by a police officer, outside New Scotland Yard, the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service, in London on March 14, 2021. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images)
Epoch Times Photo
Protesters hold up signs as they sit on a wall surrounding the fountain at Trafalgar Square during a protest against the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill, and the actions of the police at the vigil of alleged murder victim Sarah Everard in London, on March 14, 2021. (Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

The Met on Sunday said the officers made arrests after “a small minority of people began chanting at officers, pushing, and throwing items.”

Patsy Stevenson, one of the arrested protesters, told Sky News that she was arrested for “standing there.”

“The fact that the police turned up was just disgraceful, because before then, it was a peaceful protest,” she said. “I was arrested by police for standing there. I wasn’t doing anything, they threw me to the floor.”

Sarah Everard vigil arrest
Police detain Patsy Stevenson as people gather at a memorial site in Clapham Common Bandstand following the alleged kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard, despite a ban on gatherings due to the CCP virus restrictions, in London, on March 13, 2021. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

England has been under its third national lockdown since Jan. 6 in an effort to curb the spread of the CCP virus, which causes the disease COVID-19. People are only allowed to meet with one person from another household.

Police told organisers of events to honour Everard that public gatherings would be in breach of CCP virus restrictions and could lead to fines of up to £10,000 ($14,000), a warning the police had issued many times before to other planned protests.

Organisers of the event “Reclaim These Streets” said they had cancelled a vigil on Clapham Common and other events around the country, after a judge in the high court refused to overrule the Metropolitan Police.

But hundreds of people went to Clapham Common on Saturday to leave flowers and drawings at a memorial for Everard. Police later said in a statement that these had been done “in a safe and lawful way.”

After 6 p.m., more people started to gather in a larger group, which prompted the police response.

Sarah Everard protest
Protesters calling for greater public safety for women after the death of Sarah Everard, against the police handling of a gathering on Clapham Common in Sarah Everard’s honour and against a proposed law that would give police more powers to intervene on protests hold placards as they gather in Parliament Square in central London on March 14, 2021. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images)

On Sunday, more people gathered outside New Scotland Yard and at Parliament Square to call for safety for women, and protest against the Met’s actions at the vigil for Everard and a new bill that would impose conditions on one-person protests.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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