London policeman in court as woman’s murder sparks protests

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Clashes have broken out between police and people attending a gathering for Sarah Everard in London, as virtual and doorstep vigils are held across the UK.

Police officers scuffle with people gathering at a band-stand where a planned vigil in honour of murder victim Sarah Everard was cancelled after police outlawed it due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Police officers scuffle with people gathering at a band-stand on Clapham Common where a planned vigil to honour Sarah Everard was cancelled. Photo: AFP

A 48-year-old Met Police officer has been charged with the kidnap and murder of the 33-year-old, who was last seen on 3 March as she walked home from Clapham to Brixton.

Hundreds gathered on Clapham Common to pay tribute to her, despite planned vigils being cancelled because of coronavirus rules.

Some speakers were removed by police, to cries of “shame on you”.

Lambeth police tweeted that the vigil was “unsafe”, but female MPs called their actions “heavy-handed”.

Reclaim These Streets, the group which originally organised a vigil on Clapham Common but later cancelled it, asked people not to gather there because it could put people “legally at risk”.

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Instead, they asked people to light candles and shine other lights on their doorsteps at 21.30GMT – to coincide with the time Everard was last seen on 3 March.

The prime minister said he and his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, will join others in lighting a candle.

A police officer asks well-wishers not to linger and to move on as they gather at the band-stand where a planned vigil in honour of murder victim Sarah Everard, which was officially cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions, was to take place on Clapham Common, south London on 13 March 2021.

A police officer asks people gathering for the planned vigil at the Clapham Common band-stand not to linger and to move on. Photo: AFP

Lambeth police tweeted that “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 tweet added.

One video posted online showed officers removing women who were stood in the bandstand. Cries of “shame on you” and “let them go” could be heard from onlookers.

The video showed them being put in a police van and driven away.

A tweet posted by Sisters Uncut alleged “male police officers waited for the sun to set before they started grabbing and manhandling women in the crowd”.

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MP Charlotte Nichols, Labour’s shadow minister for women and equalities, tweeted: “If metpoliceuk had put the resources into assisting ReclaimTS 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.”

Sarah Everard had been walking to her home in Brixton when she disappeared.

Sarah Everard had been walking to her home in Brixton when she disappeared. Photo: AFP / Metropolitan Police

Earlier, Met Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court charged with the kidnap and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, who was last seen on 3 March as she walked home from Clapham to Brixton.

Her death has prompted women to share their own experiences, and a public debate over their safety.

What are the rules on gatherings in England?

  • Under the current lockdown rules two people can meet for recreation outside, which can include “coffee on a bench”
  • From 29 March people will be allowed to meet outdoors, either with one other household or within the “rule of six”
  • Police can break up illegal gatherings and issue fines of £10,000 to someone holding a gathering of more than 30 people
  • During last year’s restrictions, when Black Lives Matter and anti-lockdown demonstrations took place, police took a hands-off approach to protests
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– BBC

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