UK
Mourners clash with police officers at a memorial site at the Clapham Common Bandstand, during a vigil following the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard, in London, Britain, March 13, 2021. Image Credit: Reuters

There is growing anger across the United Kingdom over the abduction and killing of a young British woman and the manner in which subsequent protests of mostly women demonstrating against violence on women have been treated by London’s Metropolitan Police.

Everard, a 33-year-old communications manager disappeared while walking from a friend’s house to her home in South London on March 3. Her disappearance sparked a widespread search. Her remains were eventually found a week later in woodlands in Kent, and a diplomatic protection officer with London police has been charged with her abduction and murder.

There has been a failure of action on behalf of police by not investigating one of their own properly. Confidence in the police too has been eroded by the poor policing methods and bad judgement of officers who oversaw the protests again women at the weekend.

- Gulf News

The killing sparked a series of vigils at the weekend where groups gathered to highlight the dangers faced by women from men. Sadly, more than one-in-two women in England and Wales have been placed in situations where they felt intimidated or threatened with violence from men.

Everard’s killing has become a touchstone, with the gatherings becoming larger — with police saying they were concerned that the gatherings could no longer fit the regulations imposed to enforce social distancing and other anti-pandemic measures.

On Saturday night, one gathering was broken up by police — the images, however, of women being manhandled by officers, being knelt on, placed in handcuffs and bundled into police vehicles merely served to underline the point of the protests.

The commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, Dame Cressida Dick, has said that the protests were handled appropriately and made no apology for officers who she said took appropriate actions. Her words, however, ring hollow. Police had previously been tipped off over acts of public indecency. No appropriate action was taken and the inspectorate of police are now investigating the failure of the force. But that, it sadly seems, is too little too late.

This case and its fallout raises a myriad of concerns. The reality is that women have endured violence against them from the male sex — with both empirical and anecdotal data from every women who has had the fearful sensation of looking over her shoulder on a city street endorsing that violence.

There has been a failure of action on behalf of police by not investigating one of their own properly. Confidence in the police too has been eroded by the poor policing methods and bad judgement of officers who oversaw the protests again women at the weekend.

Discretion and judgement are essential elements of policing. They were sadly lacking in London. For both of those failures of leadership, Dick’s position is untenable. What must it take for women to be treated as equals and unafraid in their homes, streets or neighbourhoods?