The Green Party has condemned controversial police action which saw violent clashes between police and women attending a vigil for Sarah Everard at Clapham Common on Saturday (March 13) evening.
The 33-year-old went missing after leaving a friend’s house near Clapham Common to walk home on 3 March. A week later, her body was discovered in woodland near Ashford, Kent. A serving Metropolitan police officer has been charged with her kidnap and murder and is currently remanded in custody.
Saturday’s peaceful vigil turned violent when police officers attempted to disperse the crowds after dark. Four people were arrested, with a number of women handcuffed, physically pulled away or pinned down by the police.
Responding to policing at the vigil, Green Party co-leader and candidate for Mayor of London Sian Berry said: “I can’t think of a more shameful way for an organisation to have handled this whole situation.”
“There was literally no chance of this being a violent event if it had been left in peace. And given what prompted it, these scenes are just abhorrent and traumatic to see for so many of us.
“The Met has failed on every level and it’s hard to see how the Commissioner - and the Mayor and the Home Secretary - could not be considering her position right now.”
Police Commissioner Cressida Dick has since dismissed both criticism of the police response and calls for her to resign.
In response to the police handling of Saturday’s vigil, a protest attended by more than a thousand people was held outside police headquarters, New Scotland Yard, on Sunday (March 14) afternoon. Protestors marched to Parliament Square where they held a minute’s silence for Everard and listened as the names of women who had been killed by their partners or had died in UK prisons were read out.
The protestors also voiced their opposition against the forthcoming police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, which is set to be debated in the House of Commons this Monday (March 15).
The highly politicised bill is designed to give the police and UK government more powers to crackdown on protests in England and Wales. The government intends to impose start and finish times and maximum noise limits to protests, as well as granting the police with greater powers to clamp down on protests, including harsher penalties and convictions for those whose ignore conditions.
Those in opposition of the bill have called the increased police powers draconian, with human rights charities voicing concern for its potential to impose on civil liberties and threaten free speech. The Green Party is adamant this bill should be opposed in order to stop the right to peaceful protest being curtailed and has voiced its opposition ‘decisively and unequivocally’.
Jenny Jones, Green Peer and former member of the Met monitoring body said: "The government wants to use this new policing bill to buttress its political power in a way typical of an authoritarian regime.
"The police used extraordinary powers this weekend to stop and break up a peaceful vigil, imagine what they would do if given a new set of extraordinary post-Covid powers to stop peaceful protest.
"The resources spent on our police force should be used to protect us all. We don’t want money that could be used to protect women’s lives spent defending the political interests of this far right government.”
The bill will be debated on March 15 and 16 before going to a vote. If MPs vote in favour of the bill, it will move onto the committee stage, where amendments can be considered before reaching a final vote in the House of Commons. The bill will only become law if it is accepted through the Commons and then the House of Lords.