Sarah Everard protest – Crowds gather outside Parliament for third day over policing of vigil
CROWDS gathered outside Parliament tonight for a third day of protest over police tactics at a vigil for Sarah Everard.
Hundreds of protesters are also calling for a new policing bill – which is being discussed by MPs – to be scrapped.
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In a third day of demonstrations in London, people have expressed their anger and called for an end to gender violence.
The protest – named 'Kill the Bill' – is calling for politicians not to pass the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is being discussed in Parliament.
If passed, it would give police and the home secretary greater powers to crack down on protests.
Under the bill, police forces would be able to impose a start and end time for demonstrations, set a noise limit and shut down protests that have a "relevant impact on persons in the vicinity".
'KILL THE BILL'
While the government said police needed more clout to manage "highly disruptive protests", those opposed to the draft law said its "deliberately vague language" could be used to shut down almost any protest – posing a threat to democratic rights.
The bill would give officers greater powers to break up disruptive protests.
It would end the automatic release halfway through sentence of serious violent and sexual offenders and halt the automatic early release of offenders who pose a danger to the public.
Policing minister Kit Malthouse told Sky News the Bill contains "huge protections for the public" and would put everyone "shoulder-to-shoulder on violence across the board".
Discussing the right to protest, he said ministers were proposing "quite mild" changes to public order laws which have not been updated since the mid-1980s to remove "anomalies and loopholes" so conditions on marches and processions also apply to static protests.
Protest and freedom of speech was "absolutely fundamental to our democracy" but has to be "balanced" against the rights of others and the operation of democracy, which is "even more vital", he added.
Sir Peter Fahy, former Greater Manchester Police chief constable told Times Radio there was a "real danger" that rushed legislation could make the job of the police "more difficult", adding: "People need to be really worried about this."
Human rights barrister Adam Wagner, of Doughty Street Chambers, warned the Bill could "hugely expand" police powers to "allow them to stop protests which would cause 'serious unease' and create criminal penalties for people who cause 'serious annoyance'."
Meanwhile, a constant stream of visitors and well wishers arrive at the bandstand on Clapham Common to lay flowers which has become a shrine of remembrance to pay respect for Sarah Everard.
The 33-year-old was allegedly kidnapped and murdered after vanishing in Clapham, south London, on March 3.
Wayne Couzens, a serving Metropolitan Police officer, has been charged with Sarah's murder and kidnap.
Yesterday, four people were arrested after crowds gathered outside Parliament for a second day of protest after cops asked demonstrators to "head home immediately".
Protesters marched from Parliament Square towards Westminster Bridge, where a group was pictured sitting in the street.
A group of demonstrators also staged a sit-in outside Scotland Yard – the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police – as anger grows over the police's handling of a vigil for Sarah Everard at the weekend.
Police confirmed today four people were arrested and two were slapped with fixed penalty notices.
Three were held on suspicion of breaching the Health Protection Regulations under Covid laws, while a forth was arrested on suspicion of assaulting an emergency worker.
The Met said they "maintained an appropriate policing plan" during the protest but said activists blocked roads and caused disruption.
Temporary Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jane Connors said: "Whilst I understand why people feel the need to express their views at this time, we must remember that we are still in the middle of a pandemic, and that there is the constant risk of transmitting the coronavirus.
"Our officers were once again out on the streets, with the primary role of trying to ensure people's safety during this health crisis.
"Despite many people adhering to officers' instructions to leave the area and go home, we had to take some enforcement action as the evening progressed.
"We will continue to review how we police events such as this and I would urge people to think carefully before joining any future protests."
A person at the protest in Parliament Square held a banner saying: "Male violence is a male problem."
Another added: "No #PoliceCrackdownBill. They won't protect us, they'll attack us."
The organisers of the vigil yesterday, Sisters Uncut, said: "No more police powers. We will not be silenced."
They added: "Let's demand safety for all women. If the government is serious about ending violence against women, they will halt the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. They will fund domestic violence services instead."
On Saturday, cops were filmed dragging women away from a bandstand as thousands gathered in Clapham, South London, to remember Sarah Everard.
Reclaim These Streets, who lost a High Court battle to hold the event, said in a letter to Met Police Chief Commissioner Cressida Dick they had “reached out proactively” to the Met Police to try and hold a Covid-safe event.
'WE WILL NOT BE SILENCED'
They said: “We find it particularly extraordinary that you said you would have attended the vigil yourself had it been lawful.
“The only reason parts what ultimately took place, without our involvement, may have been not lawful (though whether it was or not is unclear) is your Metropolitan Police Force failing to work with the women leading Reclaim These Streets to develop a lawful, proportionate and safe event.”
They also claimed that the Force had “put people at a serious health risk through a lack of Covid-safe marshalling and at risk of being manhandled, fined and arrested by your officers”.
A women photographed as she was arrested at a vigil for Sarah Everard wept as she told of her terror saying: "I was more scared than I've ever been."
Student Patsy Stevenson was pinned down and cuffed on Saturday night.
She said: "To be honest, I still don't know why I was pushed to ground so forcefully.
"I'm quite small, and it was two very large male officers who pulled me back quickly and I hit the ground.
"From start to finish it was a whirlwind. It happened very quickly – I was only there to lay candle down. I didn't expect that to happen."
Patsy says she was freed just 20 minutes after being taken into custody and ordered to pay a £200 fine.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May has insisted young men and boys must be taught about respect for women and what is acceptable in a relationship.
Speaking in the Commons as MPs considered the police response to the vigil in memory of Sarah Everard, she described the 33-year-old marketing executive as a "bright young woman" who was "dearly loved" by her family.
She added: "We want justice for Sarah. We also want women to be able to feel and be safe on our streets and in their homes."
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