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UK police under fire after vigil crackdown

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Officers scuffle with people gathering at a bandstand where a planned vigil in honour of murder victim Sarah Everard was cancelled after police outlawed it due to Covid-19 restrictions, on Clapham Common, south London on Saturday. AFP

UK police under fire after vigil crackdown

Police in London drew widespread criticism after handcuffing mourners at a vigil for a woman who was murdered early this month, in a case that has sparked national fury about violence against women.

Officers scuffled with some members of the hundreds-strong crowd that gathered despite coronavirus restrictions for a candlelit tribute late on March 13 close to the spot where 33-year-old marketing executive Sarah Everard disappeared on March 3.

Reclaim These Streets – who initially organised the event in south London’s Clapham – condemned the actions of officers “physically manhandling women at a vigil against male violence”.

Social media footage showed police restraining and handcuffing some mourners, leading to an outpouring of criticism from across the political spectrum.

Both Home Secretary Priti Patel and London mayor Sadiq Khan said they had asked for explanations from the Metropolitan police over how the vigil was handled.

And Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey called for Metropolitan police chief Cressida Dick to resign, having “lost the confidence of millions of women in London”.

The murder of Everard, who vanished after setting out to walk home from a friend’s flat, has shocked the country and brought discussion around women’s safety to the fore once again.

Wayne Couzens, 48, a serving officer in the Metropolitan Police’s elite diplomatic protection unit, appeared in court earlier on March 13 charged with kidnap and murder following his arrest at his home in Kent, southeast England. The victim’s body was discovered in a nearby wood.

Organisers had cancelled the vigil after police outlawed it because of Covid-19 restrictions, but hundreds still turned out on March 13, with tensions overspilling as night fell.

Mourners shouted “shame on you” at police, with tensions running high as the man arrested in connection with the murder is an officer.

In the hours following the vigil, rage mounted with pressure groups and politicians condemning police actions.

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