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Pictures: Anger at police handling of Sarah Everard vigils across UK

Images of heavy-handed policing at Sarah Everard vigils in London and Brighton sparked fury online while peaceful events took place elsewhere across the country

UK police forces have been widely criticised for their handling of vigils in the memory of murdered Londoner Sarah Everard after footage of heavy-handed arrests went viral on Saturday night.

Thousands of people attended vigils across the UK to lay flowers and light candles for the 33-year-old marketing executive who went missing while walking home on March 3. A serving police office has been charged with her kidnap and murder following his arrest on March 10.

Events across the country to protest male violence against women and girls were organised for Saturday under the banner Reclaim These Streets, with organisers engaging with local police to ensure they complied with coronavirus restrictions. Many were cancelled, at least officially, after a High Court judge refused to intervene and authorities threatened large fines for anyone attending.

Many mourners still turned out, however, and the Duchess of Cambridge was filmed laying flowers at Clapham Common, near where Sarah disappeared, as similar scenes played out across the country in Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Brighton, Bristol, Nottingham, Glasgow, and other urban centres.

But as night fell, officers in Clapham and Brighton moved to block and contain elements of the vigil, pushing and restraining attendees, making arrests and issuing fines.

In Clapham, police were accused of kettling attendees near the bandstand, where hundreds of wreaths and messages had been laid, pushing crowds into ever smaller spaces leading to rising tensions and panic among the crowd.

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As chants of protest and anger became louder, police began restraining and arresting women, trampling the flowers laid at the vigil.

Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Helen Ball, said officers asked people to leave after some began giving speeches at the bandstand.

She said in a statement “We absolutely did not want to be in a position where enforcement action was necessary. But we were placed in this position because of the overriding need to protect people’s safety.”

Scenes of similar police conduct played out in Brighton, where officers were filmed surrounding individual women and kneeling on their backs while bystanders begged them to stop.

Sussex Police released a statement describing the incident as “necessary and proportionate enforcement action”.

Given the context, the footage of large men in uniform forcibly grabbing women and pinning them down has sparked fury online.

Thousands of social media users voiced their anger through Saturday and into Sunday. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan described the scenes as “unacceptable” and the Liberal Democrats have called for the resignation of Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick.

Home Secretary Priti Patel called the footage “upsetting” and said she has asked the Met Police for a “full report”.

Many other Sarah Everard vigils across the UK were held peacefully, however.

Police in Nottingham were praised on social media for observing but not intervening, while images from other events showed people gathering to pay their respects and lay messages in remembrance.

See pictures and video from protests across the country below.

Clapham Common, London

Birmingham

Brighton

Bristol

Camden, London

Coventry

Glasgow

Liverpool

Manchester

Nottingham

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