The police did not act inappropriately or in a heavy-handed manner in their handling of the vigil held in commemoration of Sarah Everard, according to a new report by the police watchdog.
The Metropolitan Police were widely criticised for their policing of the vigil that took place on Saturday March 13, 2021 from Amnesty International UK director, Kate Allen, who spoke of the ‘apparent excessive use of force’ to Prime Minister Boris Johnson stating who was ‘deeply concerned’ by footage of policing at the event.
The HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) stated that the officers on duty at the vigil did ‘their level best to peacefully disperse the crowd’ and even ‘remained calm and professional when being subjected to some extreme and abhorrent abuse’.
It went on to state that when the decision to ‘move to enforcement’ was made, the watchdog ‘found nothing to suggest that officers acted inappropriately or in a heavy-handed manner’ and the watchdog found ‘evidence of patience and professionalism during engagement prior to, during and after arrest’.
The report noted that media coverage of the incident led to what many saw as ‘a public relations disaster for the Metropolitan Police’. ‘It was on a national and international scale, with a materially adverse effect on public confidence in policing,’ it said. The Home Secretary, Priti Patel told the BBC that violence shown towards officers which was ‘simply unacceptable’ and called for people not to ‘prejudge the police’ based on footage because ‘images can be taken out of context’.
Organisers of the vigil said the report was ‘disappointing’ and its findings appear to contradict evidence of attendees and legal observers that were present in the protest.
In a shock to absolutely *nobody* who has dealt with British policing for any length of time, the inspectorate has done what was expected of it and rubber-stamped the Metropolitan Police’s shameful conduct at the Sarah Everard vigil on 13 March at Clapham Common @SistersUncut https://t.co/tCL5PQTOgs
— Netpol (@netpol) March 30, 2021
Griff Ferris, a legal observer with the Black Protest Legal Support (BPLS) group, gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee (here). Ferris said that around 6.37 pm ‘a whole load of police came pushing on to the bandstand’. ‘They were pushing and shoving the crowds quite aggressively as they came through the crowds around the bandstand,’ he reported. ‘Ten or twelve officers pushed their way through the crowd. It was due to the police aggression and repeated threats of arrest and fines to everyone in the bandstand, including our [BPLS] legal observers, that that only two of us were able to remain inside the bandstand and witness what happened.’