Published by Islington Now, co-reported by Hannah Sargeant, Sophie Huskisson and Charlotte Lillywhite
Members of Islington Council, activists and politicians denounced police officers after they restrained and arrested women at a vigil held in memory of Sarah Everard yesterday evening.
The planned gathering held on Clapham Common was organised to pay tribute to the 33-year-old who went missing on 3 March while walking from Clapham to her home in Brixton in South London.
Her body was found a week later by police in a wooded area of Ashford, Kent. A serving Metropolitan Police officer, Wayne Couzens, 48, has been charged with her murder.
Feminist group Reclaim These Streets had initially planned a socially-distanced vigil to take place on Clapham Common in tribute to Everard, but cancelled after police banned all in-person vigils due to take place across the country.
The group said on its website: “This is a vigil for Sarah, but also for all women who feel unsafe, who go missing from our streets and who face violence every day.”
Despite the ban, many women gathered in Clapham to show their solidarity, pay tribute, and protest for better public safety for women.
Early videos of the vigil showed a peaceful and socially-distanced gathering, at which many, including the Duchess of Cambridge, paid their respects and laid flowers around Clapham Common bandstand.
Videos circulating on social media later appeared to show women being grabbed and pinned to the ground.
Many have since taken to social media to call for the resignation of Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, while others have argued for her to be sacked.
It was reported earlier today that organisers had been forced to cancel the event after a “lack of constructive engagement from the Metropolitan police”.
Virtual and doorstep vigils were instead encouraged to be held across the UK at 9:30pm.
Islington Council was among those to raise awareness of the virtual vigil, tweeting: “We stand in solidarity with women across Islington, London and the UK and say #EnoughIsEnough.
“You can join a doorstep vigil at 9.30pm and shine a light – a candle, torch or phone – to remember Sarah Everard and all the women lost to violence.”
Islington-based politicians and councillors have expressed their solidarity with protestors.
MP for Islington North Jeremy Corbyn tweeted: “Women must be safe on our streets. Solidarity with Sarah. Women must be safe to walk peacefully everywhere. The Met Police must answer for their actions at Clapham Common this evening.”
Leader of Islington Council Richard Watts said on Twitter: “I’m not there (obvs) but the pictures suggest this is a horrific failure of judgement by @metpoliceuk. The anger at #SarahEverad’s murder needed to be respected as long as people were being kept safe. Serious answers are needed ASAP.”
Deputy Leader of Islington Council Kaya Comer-Schwartz wrote on her Twitter account: “Tonight we remember all the women stolen from us. We remember every time we should have of [sic] felt safe and haven’t. Let’s pray this is the start of accountability and lighter days ahead. #ReclaimTheStreets #SarahEverard”
Politicians outside of Islington Council also denounced the “unacceptable” and “upsetting” scenes in Clapham.
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan tweeted: “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 [in] contact with the Commissioner & urgently seeking an explanation.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel said on Twitter: “Some of the footage circulating online from the vigil in Clapham is upsetting. I have asked the Metropolitan Police for a full report on what happened.
“My thoughts remain with Sarah’s family and friends at this terrible time.”
Sisters Uncut, a British feminist direct action group, tweeted: “Tonight, thousands of women came to Clapham Common to grieve the death of a woman killed by a male police officer after dark.”
In the tweet, they alleged that “male police officers waited for the sun to set before they started grabbing and manhandling women in the crowd.”
Earlier today, Wayne Couzens appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court charged with Everard’s murder. The police officer from Deal, Kent, is also accused of kidnapping Everard from near Poynders Road in Clapham, the court heard.
Mr Couzens joined the police force in 2018 and was serving in the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command.