Images above: Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey; Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick
The leader of the Liberal Democrats is calling for the resignation of Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick over the heavy handed policing of the vigil for Sarah Everard on Clapham Common, calling it ‘a complete abject tactical and moral failure on the part of the Police’.
The way the vigil was handled by Police has been roundly condemned by all sides of the political spectrum.
Labour Leader Keir Starmer said:
‘The scenes in Clapham this evening are deeply disturbing. 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’.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is “urgently seeking an explanation” from Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick. He has described the images from Saturday night as “completely unnacceptable” after assurances that the event would be “sensitively” policed.
Home Secretary Priti Patel described the footage, (which shows Police manhandling and handcuffing women and trampling on the flowers left by the bandstand to commemorate Sarah) was “upsetting” and said she had asked the Metropolitan Police for a “full report on what happened”.
Images above: Taken from video shot by Callum Mair
‘Shocking and appalling’ policing
Damian Collins, Conservative MP for Folkestone & Hythe wrote:
‘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.’
Jackson Carlaw, MSP and former leader of the Scottish Tories, commented:
“Tonight required sensitive policing and intuitive understanding; a rebuilding of confidence”.
Yvette Cooper, Labour MP and former Shadow Home Secretary wrote:
‘Just awful scenes from Clapham Common tonight. Simply cannot understand how this has been handled & the policing decisions that were made. Or why the strength of feeling about violence against women is not being understood’.
Labour MP Tony McNulty::
‘As a former Police Minister and notwithstanding the lockdown and pandemic, this has got to be the most absurd, stupid and often brutal police response to a peaceful vigil. Hobnail booted, thick response when smart, risk assessed, intelligence-led policing was demanded. Sad night.’
Clare Muldoon, not a politician, posted this:
Senior journalists added their voices to the condemnation.
Reporter Vincent McAviney, freelance correspondent with ITN commented:
‘I’ve covered protests of all sides which the Met police for a decade, compared to most forces around the world they are largely decent and fair. But this is bloody shocking and appalling’.
Tim Shipman, Political Editor of the Sunday Times wrote:
‘I am struggling to think of a single public event that has united left and right, young and old like this has. Perhaps Cressida Dick should be the next Archbishop of Canterbury when she has quit as commissioner.’
This thread by Callum Mair shows a succession of videos which show how the night unfolded. Callum Mair’s Twitter thread.
‘The Met veers between apologetic wokery and moronic brutality’
Many commentators have noted the difference in the way the Police handled this and the way in which they dealt with Extinction Rebellion, Black Lives Matter and Anti Mask protests, which have also taken place under Covid conditions. Tim Shipman wrote:
‘I’ve lived in London for 24 years. The Met veers between apologetic wokery and moronic brutality. I don’t know a single Londoner who thinks they are on their side’.
Commentators also note that the Policing bill will come before Parliament this week, which will give police more powers. Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton, describes it as:
“one of the most dangerous anti-democratic pieces of legislation in recent times which seeks to criminalise dissent”.
The official vigil organised by Reclaim the Streets was called off after Police said it must not go ahead under Covid regulations. The organisers urged people not to go, but hundreds went anyway and video of the event taken by people who were there clearly shows the event was quiet and peaceful until the police moved in.
Nine vans of Police attended and the Police made no move to stop people joining the vigil but then clearly an order was given and they moved in to clear the bandstand where women were speaking to the crowd. You can clearly hear the crowd shouting ‘Shame on you’ as they do so.
The letter from Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey to Cressida Dick, addressed to her personally as Dame Cressida Dick, says:
The scenes this evening of the policing of the Clapham Common Vigil in memory of Sarah Everard are utterly disgraceful and shame the Metropolitan Police.
The vigil this evening was a peaceful one, brought together in the most horrific circumstances.
Across the country, countless women have told their own painful stories of harrassment and abuse. Your officers should have been standing in solidarity with those on Clapham Common tonight not being ordered to disrupt this display of grief and peaceful protest.
This was a complete abject tactical and moral failure on the part of the Police.
We therefore call on you to consider your leadership of the service and whether you can continue to have the confidence of the millions of women in London that you have a duty to safeguard and protect.
Legality of protest during lockdown
The vigil was officially cancelled because of the Covid restrictions, but a High Court ruling on Friday made it clear that protest can in principle be lawful and it is up to the police to assess the proportionality.
Adam Wagner, a Human Rights barrister who was part of the legal team represnting Reclaim The Streets, reportedon Friday:
‘The court did not (and was not asked to) approve the particular vigil
‘Whether this means the vigils will go ahead – look to the organisers and police’.
Dominic Casciani, the BBC’s Home and Legal correspondent, reported:
‘Mr Justice Holgate hasn’t quite closed the door on the event going ahead anyway. That’s because three long hours of legal argument today thrashed out the legal principles that the Metropolitan Police should follow.
‘Critically, the force said it did not have a “blanket ban” on all protests – which meant it accepted it had to take into account the right to protest which is enshrined in human rights legislation. The judge said:
“There may well be further communication between the claimants and the police to deal with the application of the [Covid] regulations and [the rights to protest]. But that is not a matter on which the court should comment”.
‘What does this mean in practice? Well we’re now waiting to see whether there are talks – and whether some kind of vigil will be deemed lawful after all’.
The decision to ban the vigil was made by the Metropolitan Police, not one which was forced upon them by the law.
Jamie Klingler, from Reclaim These Streets, said the event would have been “a lot safer” if it had been held officially, adding the group had 50 stewards who were “trained and ready to go”.
“We told the Met that it was going to be worse if we didn’t have the organisation that we already had planned that was Covid-safe,” she said.
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