Met Police boss has explained the event that unfolded between the officers and sympathizers at the vigil organized in Sarah Everard’s memory in Clapham Commons.
Police clashed with people at the bandstand after hundreds defiled the last minutes’ cancellation of the vigil.
In a video posted online by a user, Police were seen arresting and dragging some women away for breaking lockdown restrictions.
Some MPs and Labour Leader Keir Starmer had criticized how the situation was handled, while an MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy representing Streatham said the Police has some questions to answer.
In a statement on Saturday evening, Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball said, “Across the Met, we are still extremely saddened and shocked by the tragic circumstance of her disappearance and death.
“I know many thousands of people up and down the nation also held similar vigils in Sarah’s name.
“I recognize that the decision by the organizers to cancel the Reclaim These Streets vigil in Clapham Common was deeply unwelcome news. Even so, given the ever-present threat of Coronavirus, this was the right decision to make.
“Today, for over six hours, hundreds of people came to lay flowers and pay their respects to Sarah in Clapham Common in a safe and lawful way.”
She added, “Around 6pm, more people began to gather close to the bandstand within the Common. Some started to make speeches from the bandstand. These speeches then attracted more people to gather closer together.
“At this point, officers on the ground were faced with a very difficult decision. Hundreds of people were packed tightly together, posing a very real risk of easily transmitting Covid-19.”
Asst. Commissioner Ball said the Police took action as it was ‘the only responsible thing to do,’ as the pandemic is not over and ‘gathering of people from right across London and beyond, are still not safe.’
“Those who gathered were spoken to by officers on a number of occasions and over an extended period of time. We repeatedly encouraged those who were there to comply with the law and leave. Regrettably, a small minority of people began chanting at officers, pushing and throwing items, she said.
“After speaking with officers, the vast majority of people quickly left. Four arrests have been made for public order offences and for breaches of the Health Protection Regulations.
“Part of the reason I am speaking to you tonight is because, we accept that the actions of our officers have been questioned.
“We absolutely did not want to be in a position where enforcement action was necessary. But we were placed in this position because of the overriding need to protect people’s safety.
“Let me end by saying that across the Met, we review every single event that we police to see if there are lessons that can be learnt. This one will be no different.”
A group, Sister Uncut, which had sent representatives to the vigil, tweeted, “As soon as the sun went down, Police stormed the bandstand. We do NOT answer to violent men.”
Metro reports that demonstrators accused the Police of “waiting for the sun to set before they started grabbing and manhandling women in the crowd”.
The newspaper also reports that Police had also arrested some women at the bandstand.
Sarah Everard’s body was found in woodland on Wednesday after she went missing after leaving a friend’s home in Clapham.
Serving officer Wayne Couzens has been charged with murder and appeared in court Saturday.