Woman arrested at Sarah Everard vigil slams 'disgraceful' police for 'throwing her to the floor' for 'just standing'

A WOMAN arrested at the vigil for Sarah Everard has slammed the "disgraceful" Met Police for "throwing her to the floor".

Scenes turned ugly at Clapham Common, South London as cops dragged people away from a candle-lit shrine around a bandstand, where hundreds had gathered to pay their respects.




Patsy Stevenson was arrested during the vigil, and said it was "disgraceful" for cops to break up what she said was a "peaceful protest".

Dramatic pictures showed a masked Ms Stevenson being held on the ground by two officers as she is handcuffed.

She told Counterfire: "I was arrested by police for standing there. I wasn’t doing anything, they threw me to the floor.

"They have pictures of me on the floor being arrested. I’m 5ft 2 and I weigh nothing."

Ms Stevenson said she was "surrounded by 10 police officers" before being arrested.

She said: ""Several police were on my back trying to arrest me. They arrested me in cuffs and dragged me away surrounded by 10 police officers.

"When I got in the van they said ‘all we need is your name and arrest and then we’ll let you go with a fine’, so I don’t see the point of the arrest to be honest.”

In a video shared to social media, Ms Stevenson also called for protestors to gather outside Parliament Square at 5pm tomorrow.

She said: "After what happened today at Clapham Common, I want to redirect focus away from the police and towards what actually happened.

"We need to be seen & heard."

'SHAME ON YOU'

Mourners shouted “shame on you” at officers as they ripped women off the metal railings at Clapham Common last night.

Shocking pictures showed mourners pinned to the floor as they were arrested and others cuffed as they were led away.

The Met Police have since confirmed that four people were arrested during the clashes.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has called for a "full report" from the Met Police into the clashes on the Common.

She wrote on Twitter: "Some of the footage circulating online from the vigil in Clapham is upsetting.

"I have asked the Metropolitan Police for a full report on what happened.

"My thoughts remain with Sarah’s family and friends at this terrible time."

The vigil, attended by crowds throughout Saturday, started peacefully with women lifting their lighters in unison and holding placards as they stood in solidarity with 33-year-old Sarah, who disappeared last Wednesday as she walked home through Clapham.

But tensions started to bubble over in the evening after larger crowds gathered and police arrived on the scene.

Protesters chanted "you go home" at cops as one woman addressed the crowd through a megaphone.

While the stand-off quickly escalated as officers moved in to arrest a protester on the bandstand.






CLASH ON THE COMMON

Ugly scenes of pushing and cops grabbing hold of mourners followed with a police squad leading one detained man away from the area.

Officers linked arms as they made their way from the park with the arrested man and were pursued by protesters.

Crowds cheered as officers arrived at a line of police vans with cries of "f**k the police" ringing out.

Chants of "the sisters united will never be defeated" followed.

One woman told the crowd: "The streets are ours," while a banner written in Spanish was unfurled reading "your indifference and silence kills as well".

The behaviour of police has been widely condemned after pictures of mourners being arrested were shared on social media.

But in a lengthy statement, Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball claimed officers were faced with a “very difficult decision” as crowds became “packed tightly together, posing a very real risk of easily transmitting Covid-19.”

She said: "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.

We were placed in this position because of the overriding need to protect people’s safety

"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.”

The top cop added: "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."

London's mayor Sadiq Khan also slammed the scenes, calling them "unacceptable."

Mr Khan said: "The police have a responsibility to enforce Covid laws but from images I've seen it's clear the response was at times neither appropriate nor proportionate.

"I'm contact with the Commissioner & urgently seeking an explanation."

Some of the footage circulating online from the vigil in Clapham is upsetting. I have asked the Metropolitan Police for a full report on what happened.

Meanwhile, leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Ed Davey called for the Commissioner of the Met Police to resign after losing the "confidence of the millions of women."

In a letter to Dame Cressida Dick, the Lib Dems called the scenes a "complete abject tactical and moral failure on the part of the police."

Despite the ugly clashes on Saturday evening, earlier in the day Kate Middleton joined mournes to pay tribute to Sarah Everard on the Common.

A royal source said the Duchess of Cambridge felt compelled to make the visit as she "remembers what it's like to walk in London alone."

A further 31 vigils were also due to take place at 6pm in cities across the UK – including Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham, Belfast and Cardiff.

It comes as…

  • Sarah Everard disappeared while walking home to Brixton from Clapham last week
  • Sarah's family said the 33-year-old was a "kind and beautiful" woman
  • Wayne Couzens, 48, was taken to hospital with head injuries after being taken into custody
  • The suspect was linked to an alleged sex offence three days before Sarah disappeared
  • Organisers of a vigil for Sarah Everard have been left furious after the Met Police threatened them with fines under Covid rules
  • CCTV from a London bus has helped cops in their investigations, it was reported
  • A body found in Kent woodlands is confirmed to be that of missing Sarah Everard, police said yesterday
  • Wayne Couzens, 48, today appeared in court charged on suspicion of her murder and kidnap

The event in London went ahead despite a High Court judge upholding the police's decision to ban it due to Covid restrictions.

A second vigil for Sarah – planned in her home city – was also cancelled due to Covid.

The gathering was due to take place outside York Minster at 6pm on Saturday but at the 11th hour supporters were asked to post a picture of a lighted candle on social media instead.

The scenes from Clapham Common are unacceptable.

On Saturday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson 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.

"I will do everything I can to make sure the streets are safe and ensure women and girls do not face harassment or abuse."

Groups of people stood in vigil for Sarah Everard at locations around the UK, including Glasgow, Bristol and Nottingham.

Vigil organisers Reclaim the Streets had slammed the police after revealing they were threatened with a £10,000 fine under Covid laws if the events went ahead.

They also accused cops of being "unwilling to engage" and urged people to "shine a light" in a doorstep vigil at 9.30pm.

The campaign group said it joined people across the country "shining a light – a candle, a torch, a phone – to remember Sarah Everard and all the women affected by and lost to violence".

A fundraising page they launched has already raised more than £240,000 for women's charities.

The Met Police said they took "no joy" in the cancellation but insisted it was the "right thing to do".

TRAGIC END

It comes as armed cop Wayne Couzens was charged with Sarah's kidnap and murder on Friday night.

He appeared in court on Saturday where it was said Sarah's body was discovered in a builder's bag in Ashford, Kent.

Sarah's family on Thursday paid tribute to their "bright and beautiful daughter and sister".

In a statement, Sarah's family said: "Our beautiful daughter Sarah was taken from us and we are appealing for any information that will help to solve this terrible crime.

"Sarah was bright and beautiful – a wonderful daughter and sister. She was kind and thoughtful, caring and dependable. She always put others first and had the most amazing sense of humour.

"She was strong and principled and a shining example to us all. We are very proud of her and she brought so much joy to our lives.

"We would like to thank our friends and family for all their support during this awful time and we would especially like to thank Sarah’s friends who are working tirelessly to help."

Reclaim the Streets statement in full

We have been in discussions with the Metropolitan Police since day one of planning today's vigil.

Following yesterday's hearing, we continued those discussions, and repeated tried to find a way forward for the event.

At our meeting yesterday evening we made many suggestions, including staggering start times, splitting the event into time slots and several other ideas to accommodate police concerns – as well as asking the police for their own suggestions. We have made every effort to reach a positive outcome that applies proportionality, so that we could find an appropriate balance between our right as women to freedom of assembly and expression with the regulations set out in Covid regulations.

We have been very disappointed that given the many opportunities to engage with organisers constructively, the Metropolitan Police have been unwilling to commit to anything. While we have had positive discussions with the Lambeth officers present, those from Scotland Yard would not engage with our suggestions to help ensure that a legal, Covid-secure vigil could take place.

It remains our view that with the appropriate mutually agreed measures in place, this evening's vigil on Clapham Common would have been safe and in life with restrictions and safety regulations.
However, in light of the lack of constructive engagement from the Metropolitan Police, we do not feel that we can in good faith allow tonight's even to go ahead.

As the event has now been cancelled, we would strongly encourage people not to gather this evening on Clapham Common.

Despite the court judgment, the feedback from police is that doing so may place yourself legally at risk. Furthermore, the Covid-secure event marshalling we would have provided will now not be taking place.

We will be announcing the details of a virtual gathering later today and would encourage all those originally planning to join us on Clapham Common to take part.

We intend to publish open advice later today from our lawyers which may be helpful to others who have organised vigils around the country and been approached with misleading interpretations of the ruling by their local Police force.

We appreciate the outpouring of support over the past 48 hours, and we are clear that women's voices will not be silenced, now or ever.
We were told that pressing ahead could risk at £10,000 fine each for women organising. Even if we came to this amazing community for help in meeting those costs, we think that this would be a poor use of our and your money.

We do not want to see hundreds of thousands of pounds contributed to a system that consistently fails to keep women safe – either in public spaces or in the privacy or their homes.

Women's rights are too important. So instead, we are setting up a fundraisers to raise the money we would have been liable for in fines to donate to supporting women's causes around the country. We will also be donating the remaining funds of our legal costs crowdfunder to this charitable fund.

Our goal is £320,000 which is £10,000 for each location where vigils were expected to go ahead.

And finally but most importantly, we would like to end by expressing our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Sarah Everard.
Among the to-and-fro with police, the court case and pundits, sometimes the news stops feeling personal.

We want to remember that at the heart of this story is a young woman who isn't going home tonight, and a family who have lost a daughter and a sister.






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