Sarah Everard vigil: Cressida Dick says she will not resign despite anger growing over police action

The head of the Metropolitan Police said she will not resign amid calls for her to step down following clashes between police and crowds who gathered to remember Sarah Everard.

Two women embrace as they pay their respects on Clapham Common, where floral tributes have been placed for Sarah Everard. Picture: Hollie Adams/Getty Images

Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said she is more “determined” to lead the force as anger continues to grow over her department’s handling of a vigil held to pay respects to the 33-year-old on Saturday evening.

Hundreds of people had gathered peacefully in Clapham Common to remember Ms Everard and to demand an end to male violence against women when police officers began to crack down on the event in what Labour Leader Keir Starmer branded a “deeply disturbing” show of force.

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Dame Cressida’s comments come as London Mayor Sadiq Khan ordered multiple investigations into the Met Police’s handling of the event, adding that he was “not satisfied” with the explanation he had been given by the force’s leadership.

People view floral tributes left at the band stand in Clapham Common, London, after clashes between police and crowds who gathered on Clapham Common on Saturday night to remember Sarah Everard. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

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He said: “I received assurances from the Met last week that the vigil would be policed sensitively. In my view, this was not the case.

“I asked the Commissioner to come in today to give me an explanation of yesterday’s events...I am not satisfied with the explanation provided."

Home secretary Priti Patel has demanded a full report on events – and described the scenes as "upsetting".

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick (right) arrives at New Scotland Yard in London, the day after clashes between police and crowds who gathered on Clapham Common on Saturday night to remember Sarah Everard. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Sir Kier Starmer said he found the scenes at Clapham on Saturday night “deeply disturbing” but on Sunday said: "I don't think Cressida Dick should resign, we need to see the reports.”

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said she took the events "very seriously", but that she wanted to give the commissioner "a chance to explain" what happened.

She told Sky's Sophy Ridge On Sunday: "I really, really want to support the home secretary in her request to have a report from Cressida.

"The police have got a tough job in policing the coronavirus pandemic more generally at the moment."

She added: "I think this morning given how difficult last night was, after what has been an incredibly upsetting week, I'm very keen that we don't pre-empt that report and we give the Met Commissioner a chance to explain what happened last night."

Labour has not called for Dame Cressida to resign, with shadow domestic violence minister Jess Phillips saying: "The reality is if Cressida Dick stays or goes, [it] doesn't make women in this country more safe and that's what I want to talk about."

She said there were "so many missed opportunities throughout the day for police to work with organisers to create a completely safe vigil so that people could go and have a moment of sorrow and a moment of resistance".

In the early hours of Sunday, Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball said police were put into a position "where enforcement action was necessary".

She said: "Hundreds of people were packed tightly together, posing a very real risk of easily transmitting Covid-19.

"Police must act for people's safety, this is the only responsible thing to do. The pandemic is not over and gatherings of people from right across London and beyond, are still not safe.

"Those who gathered were spoken to by officers on a number of occasions and over an extended period of time. We repeatedly encouraged those who were there to comply with the law and leave. Regrettably, a small minority of people began chanting at officers, pushing and throwing items."

Yet many others have been less sympathetic to the force.

MSP Neil Findlay tweeted on Saturday: “The Labour Party must stand with every protester tonight - the police cannot be allowed to be used as a political weapon. Solidarity with our sisters.”

The assembled crowd on Saturday chanted "shame on you" as police led people away at the vigil, while during another confrontation a distressed woman could be heard telling officers "you're supposed to protect us".

In one video, a woman could be seen being shoved forcefully in the back by two officers after being lifted from her knees.

The woman, who has not yet been identified, then tries to bend down near the officers and is shoved back again. She can be heard shouting that she is trying to retrieve her glasses.

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