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Priti Patel Demands Explanation From Met Police Over “Upsetting” Scenes At Sarah Everard Vigil

Police had said that the event was "unsafe" and urged attendees to disperse (Alamy)

3 min read

The Home Secretary has asked the Metropolitan Police for a “full report on what happened” at a vigil for Sarah Everard held in Clapham amid anger at the force’s heavy-handed response.

Footage of police arresting and pinning down protesters at the event were shared widely on social media on Saturday evening, with many criticising the police’s “heavy-handed” tactics.

Crowds had gathered on Clapham Common in memory of 33-year-old Everard, who was found dead last week after she disappeared while walking home in South London, despite police warning that the event was illegal under coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

A planned Reclaim These Streets event had been cancelled, with organisers blaming a lack of “constructive engagement” from the Met Police.

Lambeth Police had deemed the gathering unsafe, claiming in a statement on Saturday evening that “hundreds of people are tightly packed together in breach of the regulations and risking public health”.

“We are urging people to go home and we thank those who have been engaging with officers and who are leaving,” the force said.

However, Met Police later attracted criticism after images of female protesters being restrained on the floor by police officers were shared on social media.

Writing on Twitter, Priti Patel said: “Some of the footage circulating online from the vigil in Clapham is upsetting. 

“I have asked the Metropolitan Police for a full report on what happened. My thoughts remain with Sarah’s family and friends at this terrible time.”

The Met police have defended officer's behaviour at the event on Saturday, insisting that they were protecting people's safety by preventing transmission of Covid-19. 

"Hundreds of people were packed tightly together, posing a very real risk of easily transmitting Covid-19," Metropolitan police Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball said in a statement last night

"Police must act for people's safety, this is the only responsible thing to do. The pandemic is not over and gatherings of people from right across London and beyond, are still not safe.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan also condemned police action at the event. “The scenes from Clapham Common are unacceptable," he wrote on Twitter. "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. 

“I'm [in] contact with the Commissioner & urgently seeking an explanation.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer described the scenes as "deeply disturbing". 

He added: “Women came together to mourn Sarah Everard – they should have been able to do so peacefully. I share their anger and upset at how this has been handled. This was not the way to police this protest.”

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