Under fire after vigil clashes, London police chief says she won’t resign
14th March 2021

London: London’s police commissioner on Sunday (UK time) defended her officers’ actions and said she didn’t intend to resign, after coming under heavy criticism for the way police treated some protesters during a vigil for a woman whom one of the force’s own officers is accused of murdering.

Hundreds defied coronavirus restrictions to gather and protest violence against women, but Saturday’s vigil event ended with clashes between police and those attending and many questioned whether the police force was too heavy-handed.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Police Commissioner Cressida Dick in 2019. Credit:AP

Home Secretary Priti Patel said scenes from the vigil in south London were “upsetting.” The capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the police response was “at times neither appropriate nor proportionate.” Both said they were not satisfied with the force’s report of events and were seeking a full and independent investigation.

Police were seen scuffling with some women at the event, and one woman was seen pinned to the ground by two officers.

Video widely shared on social media showed a woman was pulled up from the ground by officers who then shoved her from the back. Several women were led away in handcuffs as other attendees chanted “Shame on you” at police. The force later said four people were arrested for violating public order and coronavirus regulations.

On Sunday, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, who is the first woman to head the force, said she was more determined than ever to lead the organisation. She said she fully understood the strength of feeling in response to Sarah Everard’s case, but stressed that Saturday’s vigil was an unlawful gathering and officers had been put in a “very difficult position.”

Posters are seen along the last known route as the hunt for missing woman Sarah Everard enters it’s fifth day in London, England. Credit:Getty

“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 painful and pretty triggering to see,” Klingler said Sunday.

Patsy Stevenson, who was pictured pinned to the ground by two officers during Saturday’s clashes, said she was considering whether to challenge the £200 ($358) fine she received.

“We were there to remember Sarah, we all felt deeply saddened and still do that it happened, so I brought a candle with me but unfortunately wasn’t even able to light it to put it down because the police turned up and barged their way through,” she told LBC radio.

Emotions were still running high Sunday, as several hundred demonstrators gathered outside London police headquarters. The crowds, which were peaceful, then marched to Parliament to continue their protest.

This court artist sketch shows serving police constable Wayne Couzens, left, appearing in the dock at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London.Credit:PA

Couzens, 48, appeared in court Saturday for the first time. He was remanded in custody and has another appearance scheduled Tuesday at London’s Central Criminal Court.

The Metropolitan Police has said it is “deeply disturbing” that one of its own is a suspect in the case. The force said Couzens joined its ranks in 2018 and most recently served in the parliamentary and diplomatic protection command, an armed unit responsible for guarding embassies in the capital and Parliament.

Everard was last seen walking home from a friend’s apartment in south London at about 10.30pm on March 3. Her body was found hidden in an area of woodland in Kent, more than 80 km southeast of London, on Wednesday. A post-mortem examination was underway, police said Friday.


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