Priti Patel orders report into London police handling of vigil

LONDON — U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel called for a “full report” into police handling of a vigil in south London for Sarah Everard, whose death has sparked a broader debate about the public safety of women in Britain.

The body of Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive who went missing while walking home across Clapham Common park earlier this month, was found in woodland in Kent on Wednesday.

An officer from London’s Metropolitan Police, Wayne Couzens, has been charged with Everard’s kidnap and murder.

Following the publication of images of police handcuffing and leading women away from the vigil at the park on Saturday evening, Patel tweeted: “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.”

London mayor Sadiq Khan also criticized police handling of the gathering. “The police have a responsibility to enforce Covid laws but from images I’ve seen it’s clear the response was at times neither appropriate nor proportionate,” he said.

Khan said he was “urgently seeking an explanation” from Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick.

A vigil was originally organized by campaign group Reclaim These Streets but was later canceled due to police warnings over coronavirus restrictions. But several hundred people gathered on Clapham Common on Saturday to pay tribute to Everard.

The Metropolitan Police said four arrests were made at the vigil to “protect people’s safety.”

“Hundreds of people were packed tightly together, posing a very real risk of easily transmitting Covid-19,” police Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball said in a statement. “Police must act for people’s safety, this is the only responsible thing to do.”

Ball said a review would be carried out to “see if there are lessons that can be learnt.”

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