On Saturday 13th March 2021, a vigil was held in Clapham Common following the death of Sarah Everard. Unfortunately, scenes turned violent. An anonymous attendee gives us their eyewitness account.
I arrived at about 17:30, there were hundreds of masked people standing distanced around the bandstand. It was extremely quiet, other than a loud police helicopter overhead. We had a minute’s silence at 18:00 led by a local councillor.
A woman from Sisters Uncut came up and announced that there would be a few activists, poets and writers coming up to the stage to do some readings. They didn’t have a sound system so they were using the speak and repeat method so that everyone could hear.
The first speech happened and, soon after, police proceeded to storm through and take their place on the bandstand attempting to stop the women speaking. The women stood strong, as they should have.
About 40 minutes later they start to get more aggressive and, though I was quite far away, I’ve seen the video and photo evidence of them pulling and pinning women down who were not saying anything, just standing their ground.
Two men behind me were acting extremely suspiciously and mouthing to police, so I realised that they were plain-clothed police officers that had infiltrated the crowd. As soon as I realised this, I saw one receive a point signal from a uniformed police officer and they proceeded to bolt across the crowd, causing panic and almost knocking people over. I realise this was a tactic to separate the crowds and make movement.
At this point, they took the four women they were holding and proceeded to march them over to police vans. So, of course, the crowd followed and tried their best to stop them.
Police were then seen to trample flowers left in the memory of Sarah and were smirking at protesters challenging them.
I left at this point, only to see three territorial support vans turn up.
The irony is that if they had let the speeches happen, we all would have been gone in an hour. They had the opportunity to collaborate with organisers to allow this to go ahead safely, but they did not. I think after a vigil remembering a woman allegedly killed by a police officer this was a gross misstep to say the least.
In a statement on Sunday morning, the Metropolitan Police's Assistant Commissioner, Helen Ball, said:
"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."
Image by Tim Dennell via Flickr