London’s police chief says she won’t resign over the way protesters were treated during a vigil for a woman who one of the force’s own officers is accused of murdering.
Hundreds defied coronavirus restrictions in London on Saturday night to protest violence against women and remember 33-year-old Sarah Everard, whose disappearance and murder has sparked a national movement.
But the vigil ended with clashes between police and those attending, and many questioned whether the police force was too heavy-handed.
British Home Secretary Priti Patel said scenes from the vigil in south London were “upsetting”.
The capital’s mayor Sadiq Khan said the police response was “at times neither appropriate nor proportionate”.
Both said they were not satisfied with the force’s report of events and were seeking a full and independent investigation.
Police were seen scuffling with some women at the event, and one woman was seen pinned to the ground by two officers.
Video widely shared on social media showed a woman was pulled up from the ground by officers who then shoved her from the back.
Several women were led away in handcuffs as other attendees chanted “shame on you” at police.
The force later said four people were arrested for violating public order and coronavirus regulations.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, who is the first woman to head the force, said she was personally appalled by the attack on Ms Everard and was more determined than ever to lead the police.
“What happened to Sarah appals me,” she said.
“I’ve listened to what people have been saying in the last week. I know that in the streets all across the UK women don’t feel as safe as we would all like women to feel. I am utterly determined.”
She said she fully understood the strength of feeling in response to Ms Everard’s case, but stressed the vigil was an unlawful gathering and officers had been put in a “very difficult position”.
Emotions were still running high on Sunday, as hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside London police headquarters.
The huge crowds, which were peaceful, then marched to parliament and laid down on the ground for a minute of silence to remember Ms Everard.
Serving police officer Wayne Couzens is charged with the kidnap and murder of Ms Everard, a marketing executive who vanished on March 3 while walking home in London.
Her body was found a week later in a wooded area in Kent.
The case has sparked a heated debate on women’s safety in public.
Mr Couzens, 48, appeared in court Saturday for the first time. He was remanded in custody and has another appearance scheduled Tuesday at London’s Central Criminal Court.