Politicians from all sides have criticised police for their handling of a gathering at Clapham Common to remember Sarah Everard.
EMMA BIRCHLEY: Well, there shouldn't really have been anyone here at all anywhere. Should there? Because it was first thing this morning that the vigil was canceled, and throughout the afternoon, it became clear that there were going to be large numbers of people here come six o'clock when the vigil would have started. And it was peaceful, as you say, at the beginning.
There was a minute silence, but then the chanting began. Now, initially, it was chants about needing to end violence against women, and then, gradually, it changed to anger at the police having prevented the vigil from going ahead. And then it grew to anger at the way that the police were handling it, according to the protesters here. And what we saw were loud and furious clashes between groups of protesters, and mourners, and the police, and some individuals being led away, flanked by police officers in high vis and followed by crowds of really angry people, shouting and chanting, as they were led away to the police vans.
You know, this wasn't what reclaimed these streets. The organizers originally had expected-- I spoke to one of the organizers earlier. And she said that she thought initially that it would be maybe 50 friends. That's what they thought about to start with, but it really, really gained momentum, which is why we've seen such large numbers of people here today.
And actually, it's important to know that when it became clear that the event wasn't going to go on, the organizers set up a fundraising page first thing this morning to raise money for women's charities. It was money they said that they would have needed to pay bills if they were fined 10,000 pounds per event for having organized during the lockdown. So instead, they have raised nearly half a million pounds already in one day alone.
- And Tom is in Downing Street this evening. Lots of political fallout then, Tom, from tonight's scenes in Clapham.
TOM RAYNER: Yeah, serious questions it seems being raised for the Metropolitan Police, and how they have handled this extremely sensitive situation. We've had a short statement in the last few minutes from the Home Secretary Priti Patel, where she says, 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.
We've also just recently heard from the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. He goes slightly further, saying that the scenes in Clapham common are unacceptable and that the police have a responsibility to enforce COVID laws. But from the images I've seen, he says, it's clear the response was, at times, neither appropriate, nor proportionate. I'm in contact with the commissioner and urgently seeking an explanation.
Similar tone from the labor leader Keir Starmer, who says, the scenes in Clapham this evening are deeply disturbing. Women came to mourn Sarah Everard. They should have been able to do so peacefully. I share their anger and upset at how this has being handled. This was not the way to police this protest.
Now, clearly, those are questions largely for the police, but I think there will be growing questions, too, for government in the days ahead. The high court hearing that took place yesterday to establish whether it was legal for this vigil to go ahead in the end saw the court say, it wasn't really for them to decide, that it was not clear from the COVID regulations whether protests were banned, that it was a judgment for the police to take in any defined situation. And I think that is going to raise questions about the vagaries, perhaps, of the COVID regulations and the impact on civil liberties.
Certainly, it's been seized upon by Steve Baker, conservative backbencher. An early indication, perhaps, of the kind of pressure Boris Johnson might now see in relation to COVID regulations. Steve Baker, saying, these are unspeakable scenes. You need to change lock down law now, Boris Johnson, this evening. A candle has been lit outside number 10 in memory of Sarah Everard, but we've yet to hear anything from the prime minister himself.