'Disgusting' scenes at murder victim's vigil spark outrage

As London's Met Police faced accusations of heavy-handedness during a vigil for Sarah Everard, comparisons were being made to the vastly different approach authorities had taken a week earlier north of the Scottish border.

Thousands of mourners, the majority of whom were women and wearing masks, gathered peacefully in London's Clapham Common on Saturday for 33-year-old Ms Everard who was allegedly kidnapped and murdered by one of the Met Police's own officers.

Yet police had warned the vigil was prohibited from taking place due to the coronavirus pandemic and made attempts to disperse the crowd, before clashing with some attendees.

Alarming footage and imagery shows women being dragged away and arrested.

Hundreds of people gathered at a peaceful vigil for Sarah Everard on Clapham Common in South London.
A woman is arrested at the Sarah Everard vigil. Source: Getty
Hundreds of people gathered at a peaceful vigil for Sarah Everard on Clapham Common in South London on the 13th of March 2021, London, United Kingdom. Sarah Everard went missing on 3 March after setting off at 9pm from a friends house to make her two and a half mile journey home. The vigil was also a call to end violence against girls and women perpetrated by men. The vigil was not sanctioned by police because of Covid restrictions and the police decided to arrest a number of people in an attempt to end the peaceful and highly emotional vigil. The event took place at the band stand on the common and speeches were held from the stand till police confiscated the sound equipment.(photo by Kristian Buus/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Attendees clash with police as thousands gathered to show their respects. Source: Getty

London's mayor Sadiq Khan said the scenes were "unacceptable". Home Secretary Priti Patel, the minister in charge of policing, said the scenes were "upsetting" while calling for an independent inquiry into events.

Ms Everard's remains were found in woodland in Kent on Wednesday, with her death prompting debate and anger over the safety of women in the UK. Many women across the country have been united by her death as they seek and end to feeling unsafe on the nation's streets.

The approach of officers on Saturday has drawn comparisons to the police presence at title celebrations of Rangers, who ended rivals Celtic's nine-year hold of the Scottish Premier League title.

Thousands of fans, the majority male, flooded the city's George Square and descended on the club's Ibrox stadium in direct breach of Covid-19 restrictions.

Rangers soccer fans defy pandemic restrictions to celebrate winning the  Scottish Premiership title, at George Square in Glasgow, Scotland, Sunday March 7, 2021.  Rangers took their 55th domestic league title, their first Scottish Premiership title in 10 years, after Celtic failed to beat Dundee United on Sunday.  (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)
Rangers fans celebrating in George Square. Source: AP

Scotland's deputy first minister John Swinney described the scenes as an "absolute disgrace".

"To see so many people deliberately flouting rules with no regard for the safety of others is shameful," he said.

Social media slams contrasting approaches

And while Police Scotland arrested 28 people during their celebrations, which caused more than $19,000 worth of damage in Glasgow's CBD, social media users lambasted the lack of police action in Scotland compared to what was seen in London over the weekend.

Journalist Rachel Loxton was one of many who called out a perceived difference in policing on Twitter.

"Something really doesn't feel right about the scenes we saw last week of Rangers fans going wild and trashing George Square, and police not allowing socially distanced vigils to be held for Sarah Everard," she said.

"Want to hold a vigil without being attacked by the police? Simply disguise yourselves as Rangers fans," actor David Schneider tweeted.

"The difference between how police reacted to Rangers fans... in Glasgow and a peaceful protest for Sarah Everard in Clapham is disgusting. These are the people who are supposed to keep us safe. I actually feel sick at the images I’ve seen from tonight," one user wrote.

Many said it was a clear display of sexism.

"So women can’t peacefully show their respect for Sarah Everard without being assaulted by the police but Rangers fans were allowed to destroy George Square without any consequences? The different standards shown towards men and women are disgusting," one person wrote.

Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball defended the police's response in London, saying it was "the only responsible thing to do".

Four arrests were made on Saturday, the Met Police confirmed.

Commissioner Cressida Dick, the first female in the role, has refused to resign over the matter.

Wayne Couzens, 48, has been charged with Ms Everard's kidnapping and murder.

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