Met chief Cressida Dick faces mounting calls to resign after ‘disturbing’ police clashes at Sarah Everard vigil
Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick is facing mounting calls to resign over the force’s “disgraceful” response at last night’s vigil for Sarah Everard.
Hundreds of people gathered peacefully on Clapham Common on Saturday (13 March) to pay their respects to Sarah when Met police officers moved in.
Ugly scenes ensued as policemen were photographed pushing, shoving and dragging women away, kneeling on one protester’s back as they tried to disperse crowds.
Footage circulated on social media shows officers grabbing hold of several women and leading them away from the event in handcuffs. Police said four arrests were made to “protect people’s safety”.
The heavy-handed policing was met with widespread condemnation, with Home Secretary Priti Patel seeking a full report on the “disturbing” events.
Responding to the scenes from the vigil, Labour leader Keir Starmer called the crackdown “deeply disturbing”.
“Women came together to mourn Sarah Everard – they should have been able to do so peacefully,” he said. “I share their anger and upset at how this has been handled. This was not the way to police this protest.”
On Sunday morning the hashtags #SackCressida and #SackDick were both trending as users across the political spectrum echoed calls for the first out Met police chief to be removed from post.
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey was among those urging Dame Cressida to step down. “Cressida Dick has lost the confidence of the millions of women in London and should resign,” he said on social media.
“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.”
In an open letter addressed to the commissioner, he added: “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.”
Labour MP Nadia Whittome also called on the police chief to resign, tweeting video footage of police officers shoving women at the vigil with the hashtag: “#CressidaDickResign”.
Women’s Equality Party co-founder Catherine Mayer agreed that the commissioner’s position is “untenable”, but told Sky News that she recognised the danger in the conversation potentially moving away from police culture to focus on leadership.
Labour’s Jess Phillips raised similar concerns as she explained why she wasn’t calling for Cressida Dick to resign from head of the Met police.
“The reality is if Cressida Dick stays or goes doesn’t make women in this country more safe, and that’s what I want to talk about,” she told Sky News on Sunday.
Labour’s Diane Abbott condemned the “appalling scenes” on Clapham Common but said: “The single solitary reason not to sack Cressida Dick is that Priti Patel would promptly appoint someone even worse.”
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— Diane Abbott MP (@HackneyAbbott) March 14, 2021
Scotland Yard later defended its policing of the event. In a statement released early on Sunday morning, assistant commissioner Helen Ball said police were put into a position “where enforcement action was necessary” because of the “overriding need to protect people’s safety”.
“Hundreds of people were packed tightly together, posing a very real risk of easily transmitting Covid-19,” she said.
“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.”
Conservative MP for Folkestone & Hythe Damian Collins compared the “justificatory statement” to the “language of the abuser to its victims over the years – it’s your fault, you made us do it”.