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There are ongoing calls for the head of the Metropolitan police department to reign after a clash with mourners in London on March 13. The police face criticism after images on Twitter showed police aggressively manhandling and handcuffing mourners.

The vigil follows the death of Sarah Everard, 33, after she was kidnapped and murdered on March 3. Police charged fellow officer Constable Wayne Couzens, 48, with Everard’s murder. Officers found Everard’s remains over 50 miles away from where she was last seen.

A judge called off the official vigil planned on Clapham Common in the early hours of March 13. Due to Covid-19 guidelines, the judge ruled the large gathering as unlawful. Instead, organisers encouraged mourners to light candles at home in remembrance of Everard. However, by the evening hundreds of mourners gathered anyway to demand safety from male violence. Mourners held the vigil at the bandstand in Clapham Common, South London. Members of the crowd held signs with messages such as “We live in fear”; others carried anti-police slogans.

According to CBS News, officers encouraged attendees to leave and the vast majority did. However, some allegedly “began chanting at officers, pushing and throwing items” according to Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball. Police arrested four people at the vigil for public order offences and a breach of health regulations.

However, critics question the police tactics during the vigil with images of women pinned down and forcibly removed circulating online. Activists and lawmakers believe the officers’ tactics to be insensitive, especially considering the circumstances of the vigil. Cressida Dick, head of the Metropolitan Police, stated that she will not leave her post. Dick cites Everard’s death as an inspiration to carry on in her position.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan called for an independent investigation into how the police force shut down the vigil. British Home Secretary Priti Patel supports Khan stating that “some of the footage circulating online…is upsetting”. Later today, MPs will meet to discuss the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. However, critics suspect this will lead to further restrictions on people’s right to protest.

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