U.K. Policing Bill Examined After Clashes at Sarah Everard Vigil

U.K. Policing Bill Examined After Clashes at Sarah Everard Vigil

U.K. Policing Bill Examined After Clashes at Sarah Everard Vigil

U.K. Policing Bill Examined After Clashes at Sarah Everard Vigil

Mr. Johnson was scheduled to meet on Monday with ministers, senior police officers and prosecutors to discuss steps to improve safety on the streets for women and girls.

“Like everyone who saw it, I was deeply concerned about the footage from Clapham Common on Saturday night,” Mr. Johnson said, referring to the open space in South London where the vigil was held.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, he said he had confidence in Cressida Dick, the head of the Metropolitan Police, but that he supported a review into what had happened on Saturday evening. Measures in the new policing bill, he said, would increase sentences for rapists and tackle domestic violence.

Priti Patel, the British cabinet minister overseeing policing, and Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, both called on Sunday for an independent review of policing tactics at the vigil.

Ms. Dick said on Sunday that a review would be good for “public confidence,” but resisted calls for her resignation and defended her officers, citing concerns over the coronavirus.

“Unlawful gatherings are unlawful gatherings,” she said. “Officers have to take action if people are putting themselves massively at risk.”

Since last week, women in Britain, shaken by Ms. Everard’s disappearance and then news of her killing, have shared experiences of harassment and voiced a long-enduring anger over violence against women at the hands of men, culminating in the vigil on Saturday night.

Women’s rights activists and lawmakers have denounced heavy-handed policing at the vigil and called it particularly upsetting given that the event had been staged to decry violence against women, and that a police officer had been arrested in Ms. Everard’s case.

“There were so many of them, it literally felt like they were against us,” Dania Al-Obeid, a woman who was arrested at the protest, said to the BBC on Monday, adding that the police had dragged her along the ground. “It was unnecessary.”

Fallout from the event and the timing of the government bill that would grant police more powers to control protests could lead to more unrest.

Hundreds of people attended a protest on Monday outside Parliament, closely watched by police officers wandering around the perimeter. They chanted “Sisters united will never be defeated,” and “Kill the bill,” in reference to the proposed policing bill, and laid down flowers in Ms. Everard’s memory.

Many young women said they had shown up because they were shocked at how the police had treated women at the vigil on Saturday night.

“I was harassed at work on Saturday, on Saturday night I saw the police beating women,” said Lydia Pooley, 21. “I haven’t stopped crying. I haven’t stopped feeling scared.”

Later, some protesters marched on Westminster Bridge, next to the Parliament, shutting it down for a period of time before going to Scotland Yard, where they booed at a line of police officers standing behind barricades.

Attention is now focusing on the proposed policing bill, which will be debated in Parliament this week. The bill would introduce tougher penalties for serious crimes and end a policy that releases prisoners after serving half of a fixed sentence for some crimes, in addition to giving broader authority to police protests.

Lawmakers from the opposition Labour Party have said they will now vote against the bill over concerns it would impede the rights of protesters.

“This is no time to be rushing through poorly thought-out measures to impose disproportionate controls on free expression and the right to protest,” said David Lammy, a Labour lawmaker who is the party’s justice spokesman, adding that the bill was “a mess, which could lead to lead to harsher penalties for damaging a statue than for attacking a woman.”




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