London police tactics at vigil for slain woman draw scrutiny

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People gather, at the band stand in Clapham Common, in memory of Sarah Everard, after an official vigil was cancelled, in London, Saturday, March 13, 2021. A serving British police officer accused of the kidnap and murder of a woman in London has appeared in court for the first time. Wayne Couzens, 48, is charged with kidnapping and killing 33-year-old Sarah Everard, who went missing while walking home from a friends apartment in south London on March 3. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

LONDON – London’s police department is under scrutiny for the way officers handled some participants at an unofficial vigil Saturday night for a London woman whose death led to murder charges against a fellow officer and spurred a national conversation about violence against women in the U.K.

Hundreds of people disregarded a judge's ruling and police requests by gathering at Clapham Common in honor of Sarah Everard, 33, who last was seen alive near the south London park on March 3. Demonstrators said they wanted to draw attention to the fear and danger many women see as a daily part of British life.

Everard disappeared while walking home from a friend’s apartment at about 10:30 p.m. and was found dead a week later. The slaying sent shockwaves across the U.K. because a Metropolitan Police officer is charged with her kidnapping and murder.

Video of Saturday's informal vigil turned rally showed officers from the same police force tussling with participants as they pushed their way through the crowd. At one point, several male officers grabbed hold of several women and pulled them away in handcuffs to screaming and shouting from onlookers, Britain's Press Association reported.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan decried the police actions.

“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,” Khan said on Twitter.

Home Secretary Priti Patel tweeted that she had asked the Metropolitan Police for a full report on what happened.

The gathering happened hours after London constable Wayne Couzens, 48, appeared in court for the first time since his arrest in Everard's death. As Metropolitan Police officers approached the Clapham Common bandstand on Saturday evening, boos, jeers and shouts of “Shame on you” came from the crowd, according to the Press Association.