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Police response to vigil for murdered London woman Sarah Everard called 'unacceptable'

   March 16, 2021 2:36 AM
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by Meredith Deliso

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London Sarah Everard
 
Video and images of police detaining women as they gathered in London Saturday to protest violence and harassment have sparked an outcry.

Hundreds gathered Saturday evening to honor the life of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old woman who was found dead days after she disappeared while walking home from a friend's apartment and whose murder has launched a national conversation on women's safety.

With Britain currently under lockdown due to the novel coronavirus, organizers ultimately canceled the vigil -- held at Clapham Common in south London, near where Everard was last seen -- hours before it was scheduled to start due to concerns on the legal risks of attending.

The Metropolitan Police, which serves the greater London area, had also urged people to find "other ways to mourn Sarah in a safe way."

Wayne Couzens, a serving Metropolitan Police officer, was charged with murder and kidnapping in connection with her death, police said.

As night fell on the peaceful protest, during which attendees laid flowers and held signs saying, "We will not be silenced," police could be seen in social media videos handcuffing several women and leading them away as onlookers screamed and booed. Photos also captured police detaining women.

The police response drew criticism from the mayor of London.

"The scenes from Clapham Common are unacceptable," Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted Saturday night. "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 [in] contact with the Commissioner & urgently seeking an explanation."

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she has asked the Metropolitan Police for a "full report on what happened" after seeing some of the "upsetting" footage online.

Reclaim These Streets, which had been planning the vigil before calling it off Saturday, said it was "deeply saddened and angered by the scenes of police officers physically manhandling women at a vigil against male violence."

"Now is the time for the police and the government to recognize that the criminal justice system is failing women," the group said in a statement late Saturday. "Tonight, it has failed women again, in the most destructive way."

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