Sarah Everard vigil organiser says Cressida Dick should NOT resign

Sarah Everard vigil organiser says Cressida Dick should NOT resign because ‘she’s one of the most senior women in British history’ as Boris Johnson summons ministers to taskforce meeting today to discuss violence against women

  • Anna Birley said she did not want to see Britain’s most senior female police officer forced out over the scenes
  • Officers seen handcuffing screaming women who gathered on Clapham Common in Ms Everard’s memory 
  • Met Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick says she won’t resign after position was branded ‘untenable’ 
  • Boris Johnson is to chair a Crime and Justice Taskforce today to discuss how to keep Britain’s streets safe 

Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick should not be forced to resign over her officers’ conduct at the Sarah Everard vigil, the event’s organiser said today. 

Anna Birley, from campaign group Reclaim These Streets, said forcing the exit of the first female leader of Britain’s biggest police force would do nothing to advance female equality. 

She told told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘We are a movement of women seeking to support and empower other women, and as one of the most senior women in British policing history, we do not want to add to the pile-on.

She added: ‘We do want her to meet with us. We were hugely disappointed that she put out a statement yesterday without talking to any of the people who were organising the vigil and had such a difficult experience with the Metropolitan Police force.’ 

Ms Dick, 60, was fighting for her job today after widespread criticism of how her force policed Saturday’s protest, with officers seen handcuffing screaming women who had gathered in Ms Everard’s memory. 

She has said her officers were right to break up the event, which saw thousands of people – mainly women – break Covid rules to gather on Clapham Common in south London, near to where Ms Everard, 33, was abducted.  

Ms Dick has said the tragedy makes her ‘utterly determined’ to hold onto her job as the force’s first female leader, and she spoke to Boris Johnson on the phone yesterday, who alongside Home Secretary Priti Patel are believed to support her.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, was has a say in Ms Dick’s future, said she was ‘not satisfied’ by her, and Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey and the Women’s Equality Party are among those calling for her to go. 

The police chief will meet Mr Johnson again today for a meeting to discuss violence against women and girls, how to make the streets safer, and why rape prosecutions remain low. 

Ms Patel has called footage of women being arrested ‘upsetting’ and said there are ‘still questions to answer’, as she asked the chief inspector of constabulary, Sir Tom Winsor, to carry out a ‘lessons learned’ review.   

Ms Dick said last night after further protests outside Scotland Yard and in Parliament Square where police stood back from protesters: ‘What happened to Sarah appalls me. 

‘As you know, I’m the first woman commissioner of the Met; perhaps it appalls me, in a way, even more because of that. What has happened makes me more determined, not less, to lead my organisation.’ 

Anna Birley from campaign group Reclaim These Streets, (right, on GMB today) said forcing the exit of the first female leader of Britain’s biggest police force would do nothing to advance female equality

Police detain protester Patsy Stevenson on Saturday night amid ugly scenes as they tried to break up the vigil for Sarah Everard 

A well-wisher places a adds a tribute to the growing pile from a gap in a police cordon at the bandstand on Clapham Common, south London, on Saturday 

Ms Dick, 60, (seen joining an officer for a reassurance patrol in Clapham on Friday) was fighting for her job today after widespread criticism of how her force policed Saturday’s protest


Ms Dick has said the tragedy makes her ‘utterly determined’ to hold onto her job as the force’s first female leader, and she spoke to Boris Johnson on the phone yesterday, who alongside Home Secretary Priti Patel are believed to support her. The PM is pictured out jogging with his dog, Dilyn today (left). Pictured right is Sarah Everard 

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida has said she is not considering her position following wide criticism of the policing of a vigil for Sarah Everard on Saturday.

She said: ‘What happened to Sarah appalls me. As you know, I’m the first woman commissioner of the Met, perhaps it appalls me, in a way, even more because of that.

‘What has happened makes me more determined, not less, to lead my organisation.

‘I’ve listened to what people have been saying in the last week, I know that in the streets all across the UK women don’t feel as safe as we would all like women to feel. I am utterly determined.’

She added: ‘My view is, I’m entirely focused on growing the Met to be even stronger.’

‘All the women and men of the Met are outraged at what has happened and they’re working as hard as they can to get justice for Sarah.

‘In that context, none of us would have wanted to see the scenes we saw at the end of yesterday’s events.

‘It’s worth saying, of course, I fully understand the strength of feeling I think as a woman hearing from people about their experiences in the past and what they feel about what happened to Sarah and what has been going on, I understand why so many people wanted to come and pay their respects and make a statement about this.

‘Indeed, if it had been lawful, I’d have been there, I’d have been at a vigil. And six hours of yesterday was really calm and peaceful, very few police officers around, respectful, people laying flowers, not gathering, and a vigil that did not breach the regulations.

‘Unfortunately, later on, we had a really big crowd that gathered, lots of speeches and quite rightly, as far as I can see, my team felt this is now an unlawful gathering which poses a considerable risk to people’s health according to the regulations.’

The commissioner said she was ‘very comfortable’ with, a review into the events at the vigil, adding that it would be ‘good for public confidence’.

She added: ‘What we do in one event sets precedent for other events. I am really comfortable that we review what happened.

‘I don’t think anybody who was not in the operation can actually pass a detailed comment on the rightness and wrongness of it.

‘This is fiendishly difficult policing but also I’m sure for the people who wanted to express their feelings, that was a difficult situation for them and that’s why it needs a cold light of day, sober review – and I think we’re all agreed on that.’

Dame Cressida, who was appointed in 2017, said the officers were in an ‘invidious’ position when crowds grew, continuing: ‘They then moved to try to explain to people, to engage with people, to get people to disperse from this unlawful gathering and many, many, many people did – unfortunately, a small minority did not.’

Asked what she thought when she saw the pictures of the policing at the vigil, she said: ‘I wouldn’t have wanted to see a vigil in memory of Sarah end with those scenes.

‘That’s why this morning I said, from what I can tell, I wasn’t there, but from what I can tell, my officers – in a very difficult position, as they have been again and again in the last year policing within coronavirus restrictions, having to uphold the law, having to be impartial, having to be fair.

‘But of course trying to apply common sense and discretion and if people don’t understand the law, trying to help them to understand and engage and speak before we ever turn to any enforcement, but that is why I said we didn’t want it to end like that, let’s have a review.’

She continued: ‘I spoke in the day to both the Home Secretary and the mayor, I’m very comfortable with that and I think officers will be as well.’   

Asked if she felt she owed an apology to her frontline officers, Dame Cressida said: ‘I feel for my officers, I feel for them every day.’

She added: ‘I completely recognise that they are, particularly in this last year, often finding themselves in very very difficult situations, they are policing during a pandemic. Nobody wants a third wave to happen.

‘It’s only a few weeks since the NHS was on its knees. They have a really difficult job, they have to make fine judgments, they often don’t have infinite information or all the time in the world.

‘They have to make these really difficult calls and I don’t think anybody should be sitting back in an armchair and saying ‘well that was done badly’ or ‘I would have done it differently’ without actually understanding what was going through their minds.

‘I guarantee that every single officer who was policing last night, like me, would rather we were not in the time of coronavirus. There could be a large, peaceful set of vigils all over the country.

‘Most of them would have been at those vigils and I guarantee also that my officers up and down London and beyond, if they weren’t working, will have been thinking of Sarah at 9:30pm last night, they will have been lighting their candles or pausing, and it’s something we care about very, very deeply.’

 

Dania Al-Obeid was detained at the bandstand on Clapham Common in south London on Saturday during the vigil in memory of Ms Everard 

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday that she was arrested for breaching Covid-19 regulations.

‘I understood police on the ground were following orders,’ she said.

‘When I did get arrested and spoke to them, and when I was handcuffed in the van, they understood our position. They were just following orders.

‘I think that’s where the frustration was, the bigger picture here was lost. We felt we were silenced and this could have been avoided if there was some understanding and compassion to the trauma that women feel every single day.’

Police require further ‘clarity’ on how they should handle demonstrations during the Covid-19 pandemic, the chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council has said.

Asked about the police response on Saturday, Martin Hewitt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday that policing demonstrations and public order is always ‘incredibly challenging’.

He said: ‘You are balancing different rights, you are balancing legal regulations, you are balancing health and safety. They are very difficult decisions for commanders on the ground to make in any set of circumstances.

‘Where we are at the moment, where we are under Covid regulations, we have got the public health threat of the pandemic, those decisions have been made even harder for commanders.’

He added: ‘These are complex. We want clarity so commanders on the ground can make those decisions in what are always very challenging circumstances.’ 

Mayor Khan is said to be ‘unhappy and unsatisfied’ with Cressida Dick’s account, but a source told The Times he has not lost confidence in her. 

Meanwhile, Britain’s policing minister Kit Malthouse also backed her today, replying when asked on Sky if she should resign: ‘No I don’t

‘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.’ 

Meanwhile,  shadow policing minister Sarah Jones told BBC 4’s Today programme: ‘I think most people will agree that police have had to make a really difficult call often through Covid and I talk to police all the time as the shadow policing minister, and I have talked about some of these challenges. 

‘I think there were two things that went wrong. The first was that an agreement wasn’t come to in advance with those women who really just wanted to pay their respects

‘It wouldn’t have been unlawful if an agreement had been reached, that’s what the judge said, and it was unfortunate that an agreement wasn’t reached.

‘Then I think it was wrong the way it was policed on the night, the sensitivity wasn’t there.

‘I think it speaks now to the issue of the Government trying to rush through legislation that changes the laws again on public processions and assemblies and protests.’ 

The Prime Minister will today chair a meeting of the Government’s Crime and Justice Taskforce, with Ms Dick – who has resisted calls to quit over the events – among the attendees.

In ugly scenes on Saturday, officers clashed with crowds gathered on Clapham Common to remember the 33-year-old marketing executive who went missing while walking home from a friend’s flat on March 3.

Mr Johnson said he was ‘deeply concerned’ about the footage from the event, some of which showed police officers grabbing women and leading them away in handcuffs.

He added: ‘I have spoken with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner who has committed to reviewing how this was handled, and the Home Secretary has also commissioned HM Inspectorate of Constabulary to conduct a lessons learned review into the policing of the event.

‘(Today) I will chair a meeting of the Government’s Crime and Justice Taskforce to look at what further action we need to take to protect women and ensure our streets are safe.

‘The death of Sarah Everard must unite us in determination to drive out violence against women and girls and make every part of the criminal justice system work to protect and defend them.’

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds criticised the Government for responding with ‘yet more meetings and another consultation’ at a moment when the country is ‘demanding action to tackle violence against women and girls’.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said he would be asking the Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Independent Office for Police Conduct to look into the events.

And Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said he would bring together police chiefs on Monday to discuss ‘what more we can do to better protect women’.

It comes as landmark legislation comes before the Commons that will give police greater powers to crack down on disruptive protests.

Labour has said it will vote against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill because it contains ‘poorly thought-out measures to impose disproportionate controls on free expression’.

In a video from Saturday’s vigil, a woman could be seen being shoved forcefully in the back by two officers after being lifted from her knees.

The woman, who has not yet been identified, then tries to bend down near the officers and is shoved back again. She can be heard shouting that she is trying to retrieve her glasses.

Reclaim These Streets had organised the vigil before being forced to cancel following consultation with the Metropolitan Police, which said it would be in breach of coronavirus rules.

Nimco Ali, who is advising the Government on tackling violence against women and girls, compared the force’s behaviour with an abuser.

She told Times Radio: ‘It does come from a handbook of abusive men, where the fact that you’re constantly blaming the victim for your act of violence. So rather than actually taking accountability, it was more like ‘women shouldn’t have turned up’.’

The Metropolitan Police said four people were arrested for public order and coronavirus regulation breaches.

Three of them, a man and two women, were arrested on suspicion of breaching the Health Protection Regulation and have been reported for consideration of a fixed-penalty notice.

A fourth person, a woman in her teens, was arrested on suspicion of a public order offence and has been released under police investigation.

There were fresh protests on Sunday outside Scotland Yard and at Parliament Square, with police seen standing guard outside Met Police’s headquarters, while other officers stood around a statue of Sir Winston Churchill, after it was vandalised during protests last year.

After gathering outside New Scotland Yard, the protesters headed to Parliament Square where they staged a minute-long lie-in protest

Dame Cressida Dick said police acted correctly at Saturday’s vigil after a ‘really big crowd gathered,’ demonstrators were out in London late on Sunday

Police are guarding the entrance to New Scotland Yard as protesters gather around the Met Police headquarters last night

Protesters branded police ‘scum’ during protests yesterday, after Cressida Dick defended the reaction of officers in Clapham last night, saying ‘officers have to take action if people are putting themselves massively at risk

Under-fire Cressida Dick’s controversies during her time at Scotland Yard 

Cressida Dick has been embroiled in a string of controversies during her 38-year career at the Met.

In July 2005 she was in overall charge of the operation which saw electrician Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, shot dead on a Tube train in south London.

Mr de Menezes, a Brazilian working in the capital, was blasted in the head seven times by police at Stockwell station after being followed by officers from his home nearby.

Later inquiries heard he appeared to match the description of suspects whose bombs failed to detonate on the transport system the previous day. 

Their attempted attack followed the 7/7 atrocity which killed 52 people on Tubes and a bus in London earlier that month.

Dame Cressida was cleared of all blame by later inquiries, but Mr de Menezes’ family expressed ‘serious concerns’ when she was appointed Met Commissioner in 2017. 

The top policewoman, 60, told the Mail in 2018: ‘It was an appalling thing – an innocent man killed by police. Me in charge. Awful for the family and I was properly held to account. We learned every lesson that was to be learned.

‘My job was to stand up and be counted, tell the truth and carry on. If police officers fell to pieces or resigned when operations didn’t go well, it wouldn’t send out a good message.’ 

In 2014 Dame Cressida sanctioned the creation of Operation Midland – the Met’s investigation into spurious VIP child sex abuse allegations. 

Innocent men, including the late Lord Brittan and former Tory MP Harvey Proctor, were pursued by the force.

The Met’s star witness ‘Nick’ was later revealed to be serial liar Carl Beech. 

In 2017 Dame Cressida was criticised for her choice of words after she said the victims of the London Bridge terror attack demonstrated London’s ‘diversity’.

The officer added: ‘We believe, of course, that that’s what makes our city so great. It’s a place where the vast majority of time it’s incredibly integrated and that diversity gives us strength.’ 

Critics said the remarks were ill-considered.

In 2019 the Met under Dame Cressida’s leadership was widely criticised for its ‘light-touch’ policing of Extinction Rebellion protests. 

The environmental demonstrators were allowed to blockade key areas of the capital for days, including Westminster Bridge and Oxford Circus.

 

Crowds could be heard yelling ‘f*** the police,’ branding officers ‘scum’ and shouting ‘protect women, not statues,’ during yesterday’s protests – which saw them march from Trafalgar Square to New Scotland Yard, before gathering in Parliament Square.  

Officers erected barriers around the Met’s headquarters and the group of protesters, many holding placards aloft, spilled over onto the road next to the River Thames.

Calls for Dame Cressida to resign were led by Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, while Women’s Equality Party co-founder Catherine Mayer said her position was ‘untenable’.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Commissioner should not quit, but condemned the policing on Saturday as ‘wrong’. Mr Johnson is understood to have confidence in her.

Dame Cressida said on Sunday: ‘What happened to Sarah appals me. As you know, I’m the first woman commissioner of the Met, perhaps it appals me, in a way, even more because of that.

‘What has happened makes me more determined, not less, to lead my organisation.

‘I’ve listened to what people have been saying in the last week, I know that in the streets all across the UK women don’t feel as safe as we would all like women to feel. I am utterly determined.’

She said that ‘all the women and men of the Met are outraged at what has happened and they’re working as hard as they can to get justice for Sarah’.

‘In that context, none of us would have wanted to see the scenes we saw at the end of yesterday’s events.’

Another protest is set to take place in London at around 5pm today, with Patsy Henderson, one of the vigil attendants pictured being restrained by officers on Saturday, confirming she planned to attend. 

Cressida Dick added: ‘All the women and men of the Met are outraged at what has happened and they’re working as hard as they can to get justice for Sarah.

‘In that context, none of us would have wanted to see the scenes we saw at the end of yesterday’s events.

‘It’s worth saying, of course, I fully understand the strength of feeling I think as a woman hearing from people about their experiences in the past and what they feel about what happened to Sarah and what has been going on, I understand why so many people wanted to come and pay their respects and make a statement about this.

‘Indeed, if it had been lawful, I’d have been there, I’d have been at a vigil. And six hours of yesterday was really calm and peaceful, very few police officers around, respectful, people laying flowers, not gathering, and a vigil that did not breach the regulations.

‘Unfortunately, later on, we had a really big crowd that gathered, lots of speeches and quite rightly, as far as I can see, my team felt this is now an unlawful gathering which poses a considerable risk to people’s health according to the regulations.’ 

The commissioner, who was appointed to the role in 2017, said she welcomes, and is ‘very comfortable’ with, a review into the events at Saturday’s vigil. 

Masked police officers surrounded a statue of Winston Churchill yesterday, following scenes last year that saw the monument defaced

Priti Patel ordered a full report investigating Met Police’s response to the vigil for Sarah Everard at Clapham Common. Protesters remained in London for hours on Sunday

Protesters gathered outside New Scotland Yard criticising Dame Cressida Dick yesterday, but despite her leadership being described as ‘untenable,’ Met Police’s commissioner said she will remain in her post

Dame Cressida Dick defended the police response to last night’s vigil on Clapham Common, saying yesterday: ‘We’re still in a pandemic, unlawful gatherings are unlawful gatherings.’ Police are watching a crowd of demonstrators in Parliament Square

Officer in charge of policing Saturday’s vigil is responsible for Scotland Yard’s response to disastrous ‘VIP child abuse’ probe 

The senior officer in charge of policing Saturday’s vigil is also responsible for the Met’s response to its disastrous VIP child abuse probe.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist was Gold Commander for the operation in Clapham, meaning he had overall command of the officers on the ground and set its ‘overarching strategy’.

Mr Twist also leads Operation Larimar, which was set up to implement recommendations made by retired High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques following the £2.5million inquiry into false claims of a murderous Establishment paedophile ring. 

Sir Richard identified 43 mistakes by the Met and made 25 urgent recommendations.

The investigation was launched in 2014 following false allegations made by made by fantasist Carl Beech of rape and murder involving Establishment figures.

No officer has been held to account for the mistakes, with Steve Rodhouse, who was in overall charge, allowed to take up a £250,000-a-year job with the National Crime Agency.

Mr Twist also led a review into Scotland Yard’s use of handcuffs after Team GB sprinter Bianca Williams was subjected to a stop-and-search last July.

This led to new rules for officers, who must now justify any use of handcuffs.

He also leads Scotland Yard’s response to the pandemic and has promised harsh punishments for those who do not stick to lockdown rules.

In January he said officers had been told to be quicker to issue fines, adding that rule breakers would meet a ‘strong response.’

Sir Richard and six former home secretaries have all written to Priti Patel calling for a fresh independent inquiry into Operation Midland.

Merseyside Police are investigating Scotland Yard’s decision not to examine two false complainants, men known as A and B, who gave accounts that backed up Beech’s claims.

She said the officers were in an ‘invidious’ position when crowds grew, continuing: ‘They then moved to try to explain to people, to engage with people, to get people to disperse from this unlawful gathering and many, many, many people did – unfortunately, a small minority did not.’

Asked what she thought when she saw the pictures of the policing at the vigil, she said: ‘I wouldn’t have wanted to see a vigil in memory of Sarah end with those scenes.

‘That’s why this morning I said, from what I can tell, I wasn’t there, but from what I can tell, my officers – in a very difficult position, as they have been again and again in the last year policing within coronavirus restrictions, having to uphold the law, having to be impartial, having to be fair.

‘But of course trying to apply common sense and discretion and if people don’t understand the law, trying to help them to understand and engage and speak before we ever turn to any enforcement, but that is why I said we didn’t want it to end like that, let’s have a review.’

She continued: ‘I spoke in the day to both the Home Secretary and the mayor, I’m very comfortable with that and I think officers will be as well. 

She added: ‘I completely recognise that (officers) are, particularly in this last year, often finding themselves in very very difficult situations, they are policing during a pandemic. 

‘Nobody wants a third wave to happen.

‘It’s only a few weeks since the NHS was on its knees. 

‘They have a really difficult job, they have to make fine judgments, they often don’t have infinite information or all the time in the world.

‘They have to make these really difficult calls and I don’t think anybody should be sitting back in an armchair and saying ‘well that was done badly’ or ‘I would have done it differently’ without actually understanding what was going through their minds.

‘I guarantee that every single officer who was policing last night, like me, would rather we were not in the time of coronavirus. There could be a large, peaceful set of vigils all over the country.

‘Most of them would have been at those vigils and I guarantee also that my officers up and down London and beyond, if they weren’t working, will have been thinking of Sarah at 9:30pm last night, they will have been lighting their candles or pausing, and it’s something we care about very, very deeply.’

Cressida Dick was yesterday spotted walking into New Scotland Yard in Westminster at around 2.15pm, along with Deputy Commissioner Sir Steve House. 

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey called on the Commissioner to ‘consider’ her leadership of the force, adding: ‘Cressida Dick has lost the confidence of the millions of women in London and should resign.’ 

Women’s Equality Party co-founder Catherine Mayer said her position was ‘untenable’.

Patsy Stevenson, who was pictured being held on the floor by police at the vigil, said she attended the gathering in Clapham Common yesterday in support of women who cannot walk down the street by themselves ‘because of the fear of men’.  

Ms Stevenson said she would like to ‘have a conversation’ with Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, telling LBC: ‘I would like to sit down with her and have a conversation. 

‘I think dialogue is very important in this case.’

Ms Stevenson said she would be attending a demonstration in Parliament Square today.  

Cressida Dick’s position has been described as ‘untenable,’ by the Women’s Equality Party yesterday, while others have said she should ‘consider’ her leadership of the force. Placards with a ‘Socialist Worker’ header were displayed during yesterday’s protest in London

Police vans were lined up next to thousands of protesters in Westminster yesterday afternoon. Dame Cressida Dick has since spoken with Priti Patel and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, adding that she was ‘comfortable,’ with the police’s response to last night’s vigil on Clapham Common

Met Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh disputed the criticism as he said: ‘Politicians of all parties should make themselves aware of all the facts before rushing to judgement and making statements.’  

Dozens of police officers had moved in to block access to speakers as tensions sparked in the crowd and mourners started chanting ‘arrest your own’ and ‘shame on you’, with scenes quickly turning violent.  

Defending the force’s actions, Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball said ‘hundreds of people were packed tightly together,’ posing a very real risk of transmitting the virus. 

She added that officers had repeatedly encouraged those attending to leave, but ‘a small minority’ of people chanted at police, pushing and throwing objects.

‘We accept that the actions of our officers have been questioned,’ Ball said. ‘We absolutely did not want to be in a position where enforcement action was necessary. 

‘But we were placed in this position because of the overriding need to protect people’s safety.’ 

Shadow domestic violence minister Jess Phillips said: ‘The reality is if Cressida Dick stays or goes (it) doesn’t make women in this country more safe, and that’s what I want to talk about.’

She said there were ‘so many missed opportunities throughout the day for police to work with organisers to create a completely safe vigil so that people could go and have a moment of sorrow and a moment of resistance’. 

Ms Phillips called for the minimum rape sentence to be increased from five to seven years, and said misogyny should be treated as a hate crime.

The Fire Brigades Union said earlier yesterday that it stands ‘in solidarity’ with the women who were ‘manhandled, pushed to the ground, separated from their friends and arrested by the police last night’.

Condemning Met Police’s response, the firefighters’ union added: ‘These draconian and authoritative actions have no place in a democratic society.

‘This was a clear demonstration of the patriarchy’s inability to comprehend the reality and scope of male violence against women and girls. Those responsible for the decisions to approach this vigil in such a way should be held accountable.

‘Last night demonstrated that allowing the police to lead the response and set the level of restriction to peaceful protest would be a catastrophic mistake.’

Conservative MP for Folkestone & Hythe Damian Collins said: ‘Appalling scenes in Clapham last night of aggressive police action at the vigil for Sarah Everard & a justificatory statement from the Met using the language of the abuser to its victims over the years – it’s your fault, you made us do it. They need to be held to account for this.’

‘I think the main point of this… is that women don’t feel safe, and they don’t feel safe walking down a street. And that’s the bare minimum we should feel the freedom to do, and I think it’s appalling that it’s gone on for this long.’

Campaign group Reclaim These Streets said: ‘We’ve asked Met Commissioner Cressida Dick to meet us urgently to explain the actions taken by the police last night – before she reports to the Home Secretary.

‘The @metpoliceuk must begin to rebuild relations with women who have lost trust and are hurting. #ReclaimTheseStreets’.

Mr Khan said he would be asking HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Independent Office for Police Conduct to look into the events on Saturday night, adding that the scenes at the vigil were ‘completely unacceptable’, despite having received assurances from Scotland Yard last week that it would be policed ‘sensitively’.

‘In my view, this was not the case,’ he said.

As protests continued yesterday, home Office minister Victoria Atkins said she took last night’s events ‘very seriously’ but that she wanted to give the commissioner ‘a chance to explain’ what happened

Women held banners calling to ‘end state violence’ and ‘defund the police’ in demonstrations outside London’s police headquarters

The demonstrators held aloft their fists and chanted slogans such as ‘f*** the police’ and ‘f*** Priti Patel’

Jess Phillips on the BBC1 current affairs programme, The Andrew Marr Show, where she called for better funding and resources for education to prevent violence against women

Mr Khan said: ‘I asked the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner to come into City Hall today to give me an explanation of yesterday’s events and the days leading up to them.

‘I am not satisfied with the explanation they have provided.

‘I will now be asking Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to conduct a full independent investigation of events yesterday evening and in previous days.

‘I am also asking the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) to investigate the actions of police officers yesterday evening.

‘It is vital that these events are not allowed to undermine the powerful calls since Sarah’s murder for meaningful action to finally stop men inflicting violence on women.

‘It was clear before yesterday that there isn’t adequate trust and confidence from women and girls in the police and criminal justice system more widely.

‘Further steps must now be taken to address this.’

Jess Phillips has said more needs to be done to bring charges in domestic abuse and rape cases, telling The Andrew Marr Show: ‘I don’t think that the police over the past few years have done enough to increase charging in domestic abuse, have done enough to increase charging in rape. Both are reducing.’

Also asked about whether Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick should resign, she said: ‘This is not the day for me to say whether she should go and give a headline to Cressida Dick when Sarah Everard is the name that should ring out.’

Addressing the police’s management of the vigil in south London, Ms Phillips said: ‘There were a million ways that that could have been organised but the police put their foot down before they put their boot in and at every stage they made the wrong call.’

Andrew Marr suggested that individual police forces have had to make their own decisions about policy due to unclear coronavirus legislation.

She said: ‘I think that the police have had a terrible job throughout this process of being able to properly understand, and let’s face it, they don’t have the resources after years of being dwindled away to actually properly deal with some of the things that they might be being asked to do.

‘But the reality is within the legislation that has been nodded through, there was room for, yesterday, a peaceful vigil to take place and they missed the opportunity.’


The protesters brought homemade placards to Sunday’s demonstrations outside Scotland Yard as hundreds gathered despite police warnings

A gravestone shaped placard and a floral tribute left outside New Scotland Yard in London yesterday, after clashes between police and crowds who gathered on Clapham Common on Saturday night

Statement from Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball following events in Clapham Common 

‘May I start by extending my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Sarah Everard. Across the Met we are still extremely saddened and shocked by the tragic circumstance of her disappearance and death.

‘Earlier tonight, I joined the Commissioner in a candlelit vigil outside New Scotland Yard. I know many thousands of people up and down the nation also held similar vigils in Sarah’s name.

‘I recognise that the decision by the organisers to cancel the Reclaim These Streets vigil in Clapham Common was deeply unwelcome news. Even so, given the ever present threat of Coronavirus, this was the right decision to make.

‘Today, for over six hours hundreds of people came to lay flowers and pay their respects to Sarah in Clapham Common in a safe and lawful way.

‘Around 6pm, more people began to gather close to the bandstand within the Common. Some started to make speeches from the bandstand. These speeches then attracted more people to gather closer together.

‘At this point, officers on the ground were faced with a very difficult decision. Hundreds of people were packed tightly together, posing a very real risk of easily transmitting Covid-19.

‘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.

‘Those who gathered were spoken to by officers on a number of occasions and over an extended period of time. We repeatedly encouraged those who were there to comply with the law and leave. Regrettably, a small minority of people began chanting at officers, pushing and throwing items.

‘After speaking with officers, the vast majority of people quickly left. Four arrests have been made for public order offences and for breaches of the Health Protection Regulations.

‘Part of the reason I am speaking to you tonight is because we accept that the actions of our officers have been questioned.

‘We absolutely did not want to be in a position where enforcement action was necessary. But we were placed in this position because of the overriding need to protect people’s safety.

‘Let me end by saying that across the Met, we review every single event that we police to see if there are lessons that can be learnt. This one will be no different.’

Professor Sir Ian Diamond, head of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), was asked about the under-reporting of crimes against women.

He told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One: ‘What we have reported over many years through the crime survey that we do jointly with the Home Office is that there is a very large under-reporting both of rape and of assault, which includes penetration.

‘Indeed in some of our more recent figures we show that really there are only about a third that are reported to the police, and then very many few of those go to prosecution.

‘One of the reasons why we think it’s incredibly important to do these crime surveys – because it gives people a chance to have a voice.’

Victims Commissioner Dame Vera Baird QC said there was no real prospect of police successfully intervening in the crowd in Clapham on Saturday night, describing the circling of the bandstand as ‘quasi military’

She said: ‘To push people away seems to me to be a dreadful piece of misjudgment. 

‘Are they really improving the chances of Covid not spreading by putting their knees in the middle of the back of young women, and putting their hands in handcuffs? 

‘It didn’t seem to me to be the right thing to do.’ 

Reclaim These Streets had organised the vigil before being forced to cancel following consultation with the Metropolitan Police, which said it would be in breach in coronavirus restrictions.

After the clashes, organiser Jamie Klingler said the force’s handling of events was a sign of the ‘systemic ignoring and oppressing of women’.  

‘I think we were shocked and really, really sad and to see videos of policemen handling women at a vigil about violence against women by men. I think it was it was painful and pretty triggering to see,’ she said.

‘The fact that nobody stepped in and said: ”do you see how this looks?”. 

‘The fact that Thursday and Friday they wasted our organising time by dragging us to the High Court for our human rights to protest and we were going to have a silent vigil.’

She added: ‘I was bringing my tiny dog, and we were absolutely doing it to have a silent, respectful protest for Sarah Everard, and for all the women affected by violence at the hands of men.

‘Especially today, it’s Mother’s Day. It’s the week of International Women’s Day. 

‘And instead of allowing and facilitating it like the Lambeth police wanted to – and that police force was so supportive – Scotland Yard quashed us and in doing so silenced us and got the reaction they got last night.’

The Met Police defended its handling of a high-profile protest calling for greater public safety for women, after male officers were seen scuffling with the crowd and physically restraining female demonstrators. 

Police officers blocked people from accessing the bandstand as those in the crowd held up candles

Police clash with mourners at a vigil in Clapham Common, south London, on Saturday after the event was officially cancelled

Fights broke out as people battled against police officers on Saturday evening in Clapham Common

Hundreds of mourners defied social distancing measures to gather at Clapham Common on Saturday night

Conservative candidate for London mayor Shaun Bailey said: ‘The scenes at Sarah Everard’s vigil in Clapham tonight are horrifying.

‘With ultimate responsibility for policing and public safety in London, the Mayor must immediately explain how these events were allowed to unfold.

‘If Sadiq Khan wasn’t involved in tonight’s operational decision making, given the significance of tonight’s vigil, he should have made sure he was.

‘If he was involved – he has serious questions to answer.’

Fellow London Mayor hopeful Laurence Fox wrote: ‘Appalling and heavy handed policing of a vigil to a murdered woman in London. The public cannot maintain trust in a police force that is seen to be applying different set of rules to different protests depending on the political motivation of the protest.’ 

Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy tweeted footage of the clashes at Clapham Common. ‘This could have been the socially distanced vigil the community needed to remember Sarah and all the women who have lost their lives to violence. We knew what was going to happen if the event was shut down.’

She added: ‘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.’

Police attempt to break up a vigil for Ms Everard at the bandstand on Clapham Common

The bandstand was surrounded by flowers laid three-foot deep as people gathered for a vigil

A sign saying ‘STOP KILLING US’ is seen among the flowers and candles on Clapham Common on Saturday night 

One video posted online from Saturday showed Metropolitan Police officers grabbing women stood within the bandstand in Clapham Common before leading them away, to screaming and shouting from onlookers. 

Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey tweeted: ‘The MET police have acted terribly and caused great harm and hurt. Millions of women are angry and in grief, Sarah Everard’s horrific murder and the millions of acts of assault women face every day are why women created this vigil.’

He added: ‘I am an ally. #ReclaimTheseStreets.’

Conservative MP Steve Baker described events in Clapham as ‘unspeakable scenes’.

‘You need to change lockdown law now @BorisJohnson,’ he tweeted.

‘I am a woman, I am a police officer, I am very proud of being both’: Female PC’s view of Clapham vigil clashes 

A female police officer has voiced her opinion after watching violent scenes unfold at the vigil for Sarah Everard. 

In a Twitter thread which has rake in more than 1,500 likes, the user, PC_Milk, wrote: ‘It started with mainly only female officers overlooking a civil vigil.

‘When numbers grew and social distancing seized more officers were called.

‘When police officers tried to crowd control and remove people from stamping on flowers for Sarah they refused.

‘Then it kicked off.

‘Then I saw and heard my colleagues being abused. They were called murderers, rapists, a female colleague was told it should have been her. And we were told to arrest each other. This is not ok. #ReclaimTheStreets.

‘Then I saw people being arrested and my colleagues being assaulted when trying to transport said prisoner.

‘Then I saw our vehicles being vandalised with spray with the word ACAB and a mirror being smashed.

‘Then I thought what would Sarah’s family think about this?

‘Sarah’s family and friends have been so gracious under the circumstances. I do not believe they would want this to happen. If it was me I would not want this to happen. Stop think and be civil we are all humans and we all are angry at what happened. We do not need more violence.

‘I am a woman. I am a police officer. I am very proud of being both. This week has me exhausted. Physically from the job and mentally by all this.

‘We are not at fault for what happened because if we knew we would have done what we could to stop it.

‘To finalise this rant, to my colleagues: I am proud of you. You were insulted beyond what we are used to. We stand by our uniform, we’re proud to carry this warrant card so we can uphold the great office of Constable. Thank you for being there today hope you are all ok.’

Mr Baker has been a prominent campaigner from the backbenches for a faster loosening of coronavirus restrictions than planned by the Government. 

Conservative MP Caroline Nokes wrote: ‘Truly shocked at the scenes from Clapham Common – in this country we police by consent – not by trampling the tributes to a woman who was murdered and dragging other women to the ground. Badly misjudged by #metpolice’

Labour MP Harriet Harman wrote: ‘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.’

Another, MP Paula Barker, said: ‘These scenes of Police manhandling women who had come to mourn the death of Sarah Everard are deeply disturbing. Serious questions need to be raised.’

And Labour MP David Lammy added: ‘Women should have been able to mourn the death of Sarah Everard in peace. The images of male police officers manhandling women at this moment of national trauma are distressing. The way this was policed was wrong and lessons must be learned.’ 

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds described the scenes in Clapham as ‘deeply distressing’.

‘I share the anger there is about the policing of this and lessons need to be learned,’ he tweeted. ‘People should have been able to mark this moment peacefully and safely. This is a national moment for change.

‘Women across the country have shared powerful testimonies of unacceptable abuse and the desperate, long overdue, need for change. We need to find a way for people to show solidarity safely, and in a Covid-safe way.

‘At the heart of this we should also keep at the forefront of our minds the anguish that Sarah Everard’s family must be going through and prioritise finding ways to support them.’

A Reclaim These Streets event was due to be held tonight at the bandstand on Clapham Common, near where Ms Everard went missing, but organisers yesterday failed to secure a High Court ruling that lockdown – which bans gatherings – should not stop their right to protest.  

Despite urging people to conduct a vigil at their doorstep with a candle, hundreds of people arrived at Clapham Common this evening and similar gatherings have been held in Bournemouth, Leeds, Cambridge and Bristol. 

Following violence at vigils, Reclaim These Streets said it was ‘deeply saddened and angered by the scene of police officers physically manhandling women at a vigil against male violence’.

A spokesman added: ‘From the start Reclaim These Streets set out to work closely with the Met to ensure this vigil could go ahead safely, so women could stand together peacefully and safely to remember Sarah Everard and all the women lost to male violence.

‘The Metropolitan Police failed to work with us despite the High Court ruling yesterday that a vigil could potentially go ahead lawfully. In doing so they created a risky and unsafe situation. It is their responsibility to protect public order, public health and the right to protest – they failed tonight on all accounts.

‘All the time they spent fighting us on a legal claim that the Judge agreed should not have been necessary and was caused by the Metropolitan Police’s stance, they could’ve been working with us to ensure the vigil went ahead in a safe way. The Judge was clear and the Metropolitan Police conceded minutes before the hearing, that there was no blanket ban on protest under the current law. They then had an opportunity – and a responsibility to work with us safely and within the law.

‘This week of all weeks the police should have understood that women would need a place to mourn, reflect and show solidarity. Now is the time for the police and the Government to recognise that the criminal justice system is failing women. Tonight, it has failed women again, in the most destructive way. We will keep fighting for women’s voices to be heard and to matter.’ 

One woman held up a sign that read ‘we live in fear. Not all survive. Police do not protect us’ in Clapham 

A man is pictured kneeling on the group next to a man in a balaclava on Clapham Common on Saturday

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