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Police handling of Sarah Everard vigil deemed ‘appropriate’ by watchdog

Emma Powys Maurice March 30, 2021
Met police

A woman is detained by Met police at a peaceful vigil for Sarah Everard on Clapham Common (Kristian Buus/In Pictures/ Getty)

A report on the Metropolitan police’s handling of a vigil for Sarah Everard earlier this month has concluded that officers acted “appropriately”.

The report from the official policing inspectorate was ordered by home secretary Priti Patel after widespread outrage over ugly scenes at the vigil on 13 March.

Policemen were photographed pushing, shoving and dragging women away, and kneeling on one protester’s back as they tried to disperse crowds.

But the report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found the police response was “measured”.

Published on Tuesday (30 March), the document states that the force was “justified” in deciding that the risks of transmitting coronavirus “were too great to ignore”.

“Police officers at the vigil did their best to peacefully disperse the crowd; police officers remained calm and professional when subjected to abuse; and police officers did not act inappropriately or in a heavy-handed manner,” it reads.

The watchdog acknowledges there was too little communication between officers at the event, but clears police of being heavy-handed. It adds that calls for Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick to resign were “unwarranted”.

In compiling the report the HMICFRS reviewed hundreds of interviews with police, vigil organisers and politicians, as well as police bodycam and social media footage.

Shortly after the images emerged from the Sarah Everard vigil Priti Patel called them “upsetting”, but changed her tone after the report emerged.

“It’s important people don’t judge the actions of the police by footage that was put out and aired on broadcast without knowing the full facts,” the home secretary said. “I do also think images can be taken out of context and we should not prejudge. Some people have before knowing the full facts.”

This opinion was not shared by Reclaim These Streets, the group of local women who organised the vigil.

In a statement on Twitter, the group said: “The HMICFRS interviewed Reclaim These Streets for over 10 hours. The Met Police’s antagonistic actions around the vigil forced us to cancel the event, which then in turn, caused a greater number of people to attend due to their publicity.

“We warned the Met Police on Friday night, that forcing us to cancel would cause additional risk to public safety, as did Lambeth Council. They completely dismissed our warning and concerns.

“The HMIC had a responsibility to begin rebuilding the trust between women and girls across the capital and the Metropolitan Police. The disregard for us as women organisers in the report is clear there is still institutional sexism running through the force.”

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