Clashes have broken out between police and mourners at a vigil for Sarah Everard.
Footage posted on social media shows police and mourners jostling near the Clapham Common bandstand, where the Reclaim these Streets vigil was due to be held before it was cancelled due to Covid-19 safety concerns.
Metropolitan Police officers walked on to the bandstand and were met with boos, jeers and chants of “shame on you” as they tried to disperse people from the event.
Members of the crowd could be heard shouting “shame on you” and “you are scum” after the brief clash, while one woman screamed “you’re supposed to protect us”.
Oli Dugmore, who was at the vigil on Clapham Common, told ITV News: “The vigil was initially somber with most people speaking in hushed tones or quietly reflecting. Once the sun went down a few speeches were given and police officers moved in to close things down.
“There was very little violence, mostly pushing and shoving. Police officers were telling organisers the vigil was a threat to public safety due to the pandemic.
“The most striking thing about it was the palpable sense of betrayal among the crowd, who chanted ‘shame on you’ and ‘arrest your own.’
“The majority of people attending dispersed once the police asked them to. But it seems to me to be a failure of policing from the outset.
“If the assembled crowd had been granted a public space to grieve, I don’t think things would’ve escalated in this way.”
Police urged people gathered on Clapham Common to disperse.
In the aftermath of the protest, Home Secretary Priti Patel
“The patriarchal society, and the Met are a part of that, want to shape the way women can and can’t grieve about these things.”
Mourners at the Sarah Everard vigil were not impressed by the behaviour of the police – and that was before they started arresting people. pic.twitter.com/Ybw9K0BiEz
— PoliticsJOE (@PoliticsJOE_UK) March 13, 2021
Lambeth Police tweeted: “The gathering at Clapham Common is unsafe. Hundreds of people are tightly packed together in breach of the regulations and risking public health.
“We are urging people to go home and we thank those who have been engaging with officers and who are leaving.”Sir 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 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 & urgently seeking an explanation.”
Conservative MP Steve Baker described events in Clapham as “unspeakable scenes”.
“You need to change lockdown law now @BorisJohnson,” he tweeted.
Hundreds of people had gathered for the event in south London to pay their respects to Ms Everard, who was last seen near to the Common.
Many laid flowers, adding to the growing floral tribute at the bandstand.
The crowd chanted: “Sisters united will never be defeated.”
Some held placards reading “we will not be silenced”, and “she was just walking home”.
Vigils had been planned across the UK in memory of the marketing executive who went missing in Clapham, south London earlier this month, as well as to urge that more is done to tackle violence against women.
Elsewhere, people joined a doorstep vigil at 9.30pm, which event organisers said symbolised “shining a light, a candle, a torch, a phone, to remember Sarah Everard and all the women affected by and lost to violence”.
A High Court judge refused to intervene on behalf of Reclaim These Streets in a legal battle, but police have warned organisers they face a £10,000 fine each for each woman organising if the event went ahead.
Organisers said they had made “many suggestions” including splitting the event into staggered slots, but they were rejected by police.
In a statement on the group said: “We have been very disappointed that given the many opportunities to engage with organisers constructively, the Metropolitan Police have been unwilling to commit to anything.
“While we have had positive discussions with the Lambeth officers present, those from Scotland Yard would not engage with our suggestions to help ensure that a legal, Covid-secure vigil could take place.”
They added: “We aren’t just lighting a candle for the women we’ve lost: we have been inspired by the women who have reached out and hope this is just the start of a movement that will light a fire for change.”
A number of police forces across the country have also issued statements urging people not to attend the in-person events, instead encouraging people to move online.