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Sunday, Jul 03, 2022

Met officers ‘feared Sarah Everard vigil had become anti-police protest’

Met officers ‘feared Sarah Everard vigil had become anti-police protest’

Officers claimed they feared being violently attacked, say reports, but campaigners accuse force of ‘trampling all over human rights’
Attenders at Sarah Everard’s vigil were arrested by police officers who feared the event had become an “anti-police protest”, according to reports.

Officers claimed in witness statements first reported by the Evening Standard that they were branded “murderers” by those in attendance.

The force was last month refused permission to make a “hopeless” appeal against the high court ruling that found it had breached the rights of organisers, Reclaim These Streets. However, it appears to have authorised criminal charges against people who attended the vigil despite losing its high court case.

Met officers “trampled all over” protesters’ human rights, according to Reclaim These Streets (RTS) co-founder Jamie Klingler. She told the Guardian: “It’s a huge amount of taxpayers’ money that they wasted on our case and even when the permission to appeal was denied, once it was called ‘hopeless’, they still kept spending.

“Now they are continuing to spend taxpayers’ money when we have proven in the high court … that they never did the proportionate review. They never acted like we had a reasonable excuse and their policing decisions show that.

“They never had any intention of letting it go ahead, hence everything they did.”

Arrests were made during the vigil following Everard’s abduction, rape and murder by the serving Met officer Wayne Couzens. Six people are now facing prosecution.

Klingler added: “We were demonstrating our human right to assemble under the Human Rights Act 10 and 11. They trampled all over those rights and dug their heels in.”

Dania al-Obeid, 27, from Stratford, east London, Vivien Hohmann, 20, of Clapham, Ben Wheeler, 21, from Kennington, and Kevin Godin-Prior, 68, from Manchester, are all being prosecuted.

Jade Spence, 33, of Lambeth, and Jenny Edmunds, 32, of Lewisham, have also been charged.

A socially distanced gathering was organised by RTS in Clapham Common to mark the death of Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive.

But the official event was cancelled when police said it would be illegal, citing Covid lockdown laws. However, hundreds of people still attended an unofficial vigil led by the direct action group Sisters Uncut, leading to several arrests and accusations of heavy-handed policing.

“Every single thing we did was instigated and antagonised by the Met,” Klingler added. “[Former Met commissioner] Cressida Dick at the home affairs committee called us naive young women that meant well.

“Every bit of it was mocking condescension because we wanted to protest [over] a girl that one of them killed. They should have handed out tissues. They should have facilitated a safe space for us to grieve.”

In witness statements, officers told Westminster magistrates court that they tried to break up the vigil using Covid laws, feared being violently attacked and were called “murderers” by the some in attendance.

PC Darryl Mayne claimed social distancing guidelines were ignored as the crowd grew larger.

“There was a clear breach of coronavirus regulations taking place,” he wrote. “From my own recollection I recall the crowd screaming what I believed to be the following: ‘Go away’, ‘murderers’, ‘arrest your own’.

“Something that also stood out to me while present at location was the crowd shout: ‘It should be you’ to officers, which caused me to feel distress upon hearing this.”

It is understood that Hohmann has entered a not guilty plea, but the pleas of Al-Obeid, Wheeler and Godin-Prior are not currently known.

Spence’s and Edmunds’ cases are due to be heard on 15 June.
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