Shock and anger is mounting against the Met’s handling of a vigil for murdered south Londoner Sarah Everard.
A planned demonstration was cancelled by organisers Reclaim These Streets after the Met tried to ban the protest due to COVID-19 laws, saying it was unsafe.
Many women still turned out to protest and show solidarity with campaigners, with some arrested and dragged away by police, amid mounting public fury at the police’s ‘disturbing’ response.
One widely circulated image showed a woman being pinned down and handcuffed by officers.
In a statement on Twitter, Lambeth MPS said the vigil at the bandstand was ‘unsafe’ with crowds ‘tightly packed’.
“Hundreds of people are tightly packed together in breach of the regulations and risking public health,” the statement said.
“We are urging people to go home and we thank those who have been engaging with officers and who are leaving.”
Earlier this evening Commissioner Cressida Dick had urged “people to express their sadness and their solidarity and their really strong feelings about women’s safety in other ways.”
The vigil’s organisers had appealed to the police to work with them to keep the event as safe as possible, but lost a High Court challenge against a police ban on the demonstration.
Labour leader Keir Starmer described the police response in Clapham as “deeply disturbing… this was not the way to police this protest”.
Camberwell and Peckham MP Harriet Harman said the Met had ‘mishandled’ the vigil from the beginning, and criticised its decision to not engage with its organisers.
Met mishandled vigil plan from the outset. They should have reached agreement. Terrible scenes in Clapham. I don’t want to see any of these women in court. https://t.co/nniJx2rQhk
— Harriet Harman (@HarrietHarman) March 13, 2021
Sadiq Khan said: “The scenes from Clapham Common are unacceptable.
“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 contact with the commissioner and urgently seeking an explanation.”
I know Lambeth Borough officers made efforts to compromise with the organisers but were overruled from high up.
They'll be left to deal with the fallout of this and the further burden it places on already strained community relationships.
Very disappointing from Scotland Yard.
— Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP (@BellRibeiroAddy) March 13, 2021
Luisa and @CarolinePidgeon wrote to Cressida Dick last night to encourage police to find a good solution. Very sad that we now are the scenes of peaceful protest being aggressively broken up by police. #ReclaimTheStreets https://t.co/aM2ny9aCuO
— Cllr Humaira Ali (@cllrhumaira) March 13, 2021
Deeply distressing to see male police officers preventing women from mourning the death of Sarah Everard & protesting against the violence women & girls experience from men every day
Women should have been allowed to hold the vigil in peace
The police response is wrong
— Cllr Kieron Williams (@kieronjwilliams) March 13, 2021
Devastated by the scenes from Clapham Common this evening. So many of us urged the police to work with the organisers to ensure this vigil could take place safely. Heavy handed policing of a peaceful vigil is unacceptable. I stand with women everywhere to #ReclaimTheseStreets pic.twitter.com/C4aoRrT9Ea
— Helen Hayes ?? (@helenhayes_) March 13, 2021
Home secretary 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.”
Like all violence against women, this was not inevitable. The Met and the London Mayor could have worked with women on the ground to support a Covid safe vigil. Instead they are bringing more violence #ReclaimTheseStreets https://t.co/pSXErJSbmg
— Women's Equality Party (@WEP_UK) March 13, 2021
Green Party mayoral candidate Sian Berry said: “Failure upon failure from Met leadership.
“There was literally no chance of this being a violent event if it had been left in peace.
“And given what prompted it, these scenes are just abhorrent and traumatic to see for so many of us.
“They will be held to account.”
Across the country women lit candles on their doorsteps in Sarah’s memory, as they called for urgent change.
Since her disappearance while walking home on Wednesday, March 3, women have shared their stories of sexual harassment, sexual assault, safety fears and hyper-vigilance in public.
Update: We are sorry to confirm that our Clapham vigil scheduled for tonight is cancelled. Please see the full statement here.
— Reclaim These Streets (@ReclaimTS) March 13, 2021