Portsmouth figures 'shock' at 'distressing scenes' over police clashes at Sarah Everard vigil in London as organisers fire stinging attack
RECLAIM These Streets has launched a stinging attack against the Metropolitan Police after accusing the authority of ‘physically manhandling women’ at a vigil in memory of Sarah Everard in London.
Scotland Yard said four people were detained for public order offences and for breaches of coronavirus regulations following ugly scenes on Saturday night in Clapham Common – with Portsmouth figures revealing ‘shock’ at the ‘distressing scenes’.
A vigil had initially been planned but it was cancelled after police said it risked breaching lockdown rules with the organisers deciding it could not go ahead.
But despite this, hundreds of people gathered at the common – leading to clashes.
The incident has sparked criticism from Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan. ‘Shocked by the scenes from Clapham Common and understand the anger there is about the policing of this and the treatment of women in attendance,’ he said on Twitter.
‘People should have been able to pay their respects to Sarah Everard peacefully and safely.’
Meanwhile Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said: ‘Thank you to all who are thinking of Sarah and her family tonight. Know that some will also have been thinking about other victims of violence too, other loved ones.
‘Hope that despite the distressing scenes at Clapham you have some comfort in that so many showed their support.’
Charlotte Gerada, a Southsea campaigner who hopes to end violence against women, said: ‘What happened was shocking and unacceptable especially give the context where people were just trying to pay their respects and reflect on all women who are affected by violence.
‘The response by the police was completely unjustified. Serious questions need to be asked of the police’s judgement.
‘Moving forward if more vigils are held then police need to handle these fairly.’
She added: ‘Many women feel they are not taken seriously when reporting violence. There is little confidence which us why we are pushing for more solutions to the problems of male violence.’
Reclaim These Streets, in a statement last night, said the group was ‘deeply saddened and angered by scenes of officers physically manhandling women at a vigil against male violence’.
The group added: ‘This week of all weeks the police should have understood that women would need a place to mourn, reflect and show solidarity.
‘Now is the time for the police and the government to recognise that the criminal justice system is failing women.
‘Tonight, it has failed women again, in the most destructive way. We will keep fighting for women’s voices to be heard and to matter.’
Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball said: ‘Those who gathered were spoken to by officers on a number of occasions and over an extended period of time. ‘We repeatedly encouraged those who were there to comply with the law and leave. Regrettably, a small minority of people began chanting at officers, pushing and throwing items.
‘After speaking with officers, the vast majority of people quickly left. Four arrests have been made for public order offences and for breaches of the Health Protection Regulations.
‘Part of the reason I am speaking to you tonight is because we accept that the actions of our officers have been questioned.
‘We absolutely did not want to be in a position where enforcement action was necessary. But we were placed in this position because of the overriding need to protect people’s safety.’
Home Office minister Victoria Atkins described the clashes as ‘upsetting’ and said she takes the issue ‘very seriously’.
She said: ‘This has been an unimaginable week for the family and friends of Sarah Everard – the loss that they are suffering is beyond our comprehension.
‘And I think in response to that, the reaction that we have seen from women across the country in terms of their own experiences of sexual harassment in the street and violence and being frightened to walk in our streets is also very, very shocking and very, very upsetting…
‘Through the day we saw many people come to that particular part of Clapham Common, to pay their respects, to lay a flower around the bandstand and of course the majority of them had a peaceful experience.
‘Now the scenes that we have seen later on in the day and the evening are very upsetting. I take it very seriously, the Home Secretary takes it very seriously, which is why she has asked the Metropolitan Commissioner for a report on what has happened last night.’