Sarah Everard memorial: Arrests as police clash with crowds at cancelled vigil

Arrests have been made at a memorial for Sarah Everard after clashes between police and crowds on Clapham Common.

Scotland Yard is facing criticism for its handling of the gathering after a planned vigil was cancelled due to officers saying it risked breaching lockdown rules.

Hundreds gathered on the common in south London regardless, but the sombre atmosphere turned to one of anger and protest as the evening progressed, with angry scuffles after those attending were urged to go home.

One video posted online showed Met Police officers grabbing women standing on the common’s bandstand before leading them away, to screaming and shouting from onlookers.

Labour Leader Keir Starmer wrote on Twitter that the scenes were “deeply disturbing”.

He added: “Women came together to mourn Sarah Everard – they should have been able to do so peacefully.

“I share their anger and upset at how this has been handled. This was not the way to police this protest.”

Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy tweeted footage of the clashes, saying: “This could have been the socially distanced vigil the community needed to remember Sarah and all the women who have lost their lives to violence.

“We knew what was going to happen if the event was shut down.

“I know Lambeth Borough officers made efforts to compromise with the organisers but were overruled from high up.

“They’ll be left to deal with the fallout of this and the further burden it places on already strained community relationships. Very disappointing from Scotland Yard.”

Labour’s Sarah Owen added: “No one can see these scenes and think that this has been handled anything but badly by Met Police. It could and should have been so different.”

Charlotte Nichols, shadow minister for women and equalities, wrote on Twitter: “If Met Police had put the resources into assisting Reclaim These Streets to hold the COVID-secure vigil originally planned that they put into stopping any collective show of grief and solidarity (both through the courts and a heavy-handed physical response), we’d all be in a better place.”

Police said the gathering was “unsafe” and was a breach of coronavirus regulations.

A tweet from the Lambeth police account said: “The gathering at #ClaphamCommon is unsafe. Hundreds of people are tightly packed together in breach of the regulations and risking public health.

“We are urging people to go home and we thank those who have been engaging with officers and who are leaving.”

The ugly scenes came ahead of a planned nationwide tribute to Ms Everard, with organisers of the vigil having asked people to instead shine a light on their doorstep at 9.30pm.

Among those to take part will be Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who tweeted: “Tonight Carrie and I will be lighting a candle for Sarah Everard and thinking of her family and friends. I cannot imagine how unbearable their pain and grief is. We must work fast to find all the answers to this horrifying crime.”

Ms Everard, a marketing executive, went missing while walking home across Clapham Common earlier this month and was later found dead in a woodland in Kent.

Wayne Couzens, a Metropolitan Police officer, appeared in person before Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Saturday charged with her kidnap and murder.

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