London, Mar 14 (efe-epa).- London’s Metropolitan Police Service has come under strong criticism after it broke up a vigil being held in memory of Sarah Everard, who went missing as she walked home earlier this month.
Everard’s alleged murder has sparked an outpouring of grief in the United Kingdom and prompted fresh debate on women’s safety. Her body was later found in a woodland in Kent.
Wayne Couzens, a member of the Met police force, has been charged with her kidnap and murder.
Women gathered in London’s Clapham Common, where Everard went missing on Mar. 3, to hold a candlelight vigil in her memory on Saturday night.
Metropolitan police officers at the scene intervened after nightfall, saying the gathering was in breach of the UK’s Covid-19 restrictions.
The Met’s assistant commissioner Helen Bell justified the action in a statement early Sunday morning.
“Today, for over six hours hundreds of people came to lay flowers and pay their respects to Sarah in Clapham Common in a safe and lawful way. Around 6pm, more people began to gather close to the bandstand within the Common. Some started to make speeches from the bandstand. These speeches then attracted more people to gather closer together.”
“At this point, officers on the ground were faced with a very difficult decision. Hundreds of people were packed tightly together, posing a very real risk of easily transmitting Covid-19.”
The police confirmed it had made four arrests at the vigil.
But the decision to intervene in the gathering — which had officially been canceled by the Reclaim These Streets movement — was roundly criticized.