Police at a vigil in memory of Sarah Everard were “placed in a position where enforcement was necessary”, Scotland Yard said amid pressure to explain its handling of the event.
A crowd gathered at Clapham Common to remember the 33-year-old marketing executive who was found dead this week, but scuffles broke out after police surrounded a bandstand covered in flowers left in tribute.
Officers from London’s Metropolitan Police were seen grabbing several women, leading them away in handcuffs and the force later said four people were arrested for public order and coronavirus regulation breaches.
Scuffles break out at Clapham Common memorial for Sarah Everard as people chant “arrest your own.” pic.twitter.com/6AXFK5sl7a— Karla Adam (@karlaadam) March 13, 2021
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel called the scenes “upsetting” and said she is seeking a full report on events.
Assistant Commissioner of the met police Helen Ball said: police were put into a position “where enforcement action was necessary”.
She said: “Hundreds of people were packed tightly together, posing a very real risk of easily transmitting Covid-19.
“Police must act for people’s safety, this is the only responsible thing to do. The pandemic is not over and gatherings 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.”
#UPDATE | Statement from AC Helen Ball following #ClaphamCommon vigil— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) March 14, 2021
"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."https://t.co/HQpS0LD7TB
The Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton was among those to visit the make-shift memorial at Clapham Common on Saturday to pay her respects, and was seen pausing in front of the sea of flowers.
The Duchess of Cambridge has paid her respects to Sarah Everard at Clapham Common bandstand pic.twitter.com/fOCDsV8SuR— Thomas Newton (@SkyTNewton) March 13, 2021
Serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, who is accused of murdering Ms Everard, was remanded in custody after his first court appearance.
Police constable Wayne Couzens, 48, is charged with kidnapping and murdering Ms Everard, who went missing while walking home from a friend’s flat in south London on March 3.
Newsday and Agencies