- A police watchdog said London police “acted appropriately” at a March 13 vigil for Sarah Everard.
- Everard was killed after going missing in early March, sparking anger over violence against women.
- Footage from the vigil showed police shoving and arresting women, prompting widespread criticism.
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A police watchdog said that London police “acted appropriately” as they shoved and arrested attendees at a vigil for Sarah Everard.
A report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, published Tuesday, said that Metropolitan Police officers had properly policed the event, despite widespread criticism over how they handled it.
The report said that:
- “Police officers at the vigil did their best to peacefully disperse the crowd.”
- “Police officers remained calm and professional when subjected to abuse.”
- “Police officers did not act inappropriately or in a heavy-handed manner.”
Everard went missing while walking home from a friend’s house in south London on March 3. She was last seen on surveillance footage on a busy street at around 9:30 p.m.
A serving police officer was arrested on suspicion of her kidnap and murder in the days following, and on March 13, authorities said they had identified human remains found in a wooded area as Everard’s.
The vigil was held in London’s Clapham Common, near where Everard disappeared, the same day her remains were found. The Met Police had banned the event, citing coronavirus concerns, but it went on anyway.
The vigil started peacefully, but attendees said that it was over-policed and clashes began.
Photo and video footage showed officers shoving and arresting women at the event.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “deeply concerned” by footage showing police officers detaining women at the vigil. Cressida Dick, the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, also faced calls to resign.
But the Tuesday report said: “The Metropolitan Police was justified in adopting the view that the risks of transmitting COVID-19 at the vigil were too great to ignore when planning for and policing the event.”
It did add, however, that there was “insufficient communication between police commanders about changing events on the ground.”
It added that “public confidence in the Metropolitan Police suffered as a result of the vigil, and that given the impact of images of women under arrest – which were widely disseminated on social media – a more conciliatory response after the event might have served the Met’s interests better.”
In response to the watchdog report, the Met Police doubled down on its support for officers, who it said faced “difficult circumstances” at the vigil.
“This report makes clear the difficult circumstances officers faced as a peaceful vigil became a hostile rally. We must always be consistent in our policing of public events,” said Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolfe in a Tuesday statement. “I am extremely proud of the restraint, compassion and professionalism officers showed during a fast-moving and challenging situation.”
“We welcome the considered scrutiny of this event which highlights how a snapshot may not represent the full context of the challenges police face,” she added.
Everard’s death sparked other demonstrations in the city and renewed conversations about male violence against women in the UK.
Police officer Wayne Couzens was charged with Everard’s kidnapping and murder, and is due to stand trial later this year.