London police said they were “forced into a position where enforcement was necessary” during the wake of the murdered Sarah Everard.
Hundreds of people, including Kate Middleton, the wife of Britain’s Prince William, gathered on Saturday for a rally banned due to corona measures. The police acted harshly, and this led to a lot of criticism, also from various politicians.
Officers who tried to disband the demonstration initially encountered loud resistance and flute concerts. Eventually, riots broke out between the police and some of the vigil participants. Video images and photos on social media show how policemen restrain and handcuff activists.
Four people were arrested for violation of corona rules and disturbance of public order. Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball pointed out in a response that hundreds of people were crowded together, posing a high risk of spreading the coronavirus. “We repeatedly asked those present to comply with the laws and to leave. Unfortunately, a small minority began to chant, push and throw things at the officers.”
The organization behind the vigil, Reclaim These Streets, says it is angry about images of officers “physically assaulting women during a vigil against male violence.”
Politicians also disapproved of how the police handled the vigil. Labour leader Keir Starmer called this “not a good law enforcement method”. London Mayor Sadiq Khan, a Starmer party member, called the scenes “unacceptable”.
The vigil was held in the park that Everard walked through just before her disappearance. She disappeared on March 3 while on foot in her hometown of London. Earlier this week, her body was found, and 48-year-old agent Wayne Couzens was arrested as the prime suspect. A 30-year-old woman, believed to be his wife, was arrested on suspicion of complicity.