Police were “moved to a position where enforcement was required” during a vigil to commemorate Sarah Everard, Scotland Yard said under pressure to explain how the incident was handled.
A crowd gathered in Clapham Common to remember the 33-year-old marketing director, but a brawl broke out when police surrounded a bandstand covered in flowers that were left as tribute.
City police officers were seen grabbing several women and handcuffing them away. Police later said four people were arrested for violating public order and coronavirus regulations.
However, the vigil surveillance was condemned and Home Secretary Priti Patel requested a full account of the events.
She described the vigil footage as “disturbing” while Liberal Democratic leader Sir Ed Davey called on Commissioner Cressida Dick to “consider” her leadership of the force.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the scenes were “unacceptable” and tweeted, “The police are responsible for enforcing Covid’s laws, but it is clear from pictures I’ve seen that the response is sometimes neither was appropriate nor proportionate. “
In the early hours of Sunday morning, Deputy Commissioner Helen Ball said the police had been placed in a position “where enforcement action was required”.
She said: “Hundreds of people were packed tightly together which is a very real risk for easy transmission of Covid-19.
“The police have to act for people’s safety, that is the only responsible thing. The pandemic is not over yet and gatherings of people from all over London and beyond are still unsafe.
“Those who gathered were approached by officials several times over a long period of time. We have repeatedly encouraged those who have been there to obey the law and leave. Unfortunately, a small minority of people began singing officers, pushing and throwing objects. “
The assembled crowd sang “Shame on you” as the police led people away to the vigil, while during another confrontation a desperate woman was heard telling the officers, “You should protect us.”
Reclaim These Streets said the group was “deeply saddened and upset” by scenes of officials “physically abusing women during a vigil against male violence.”
The group added, “This week of every week the police should have understood that women need a place where they can mourn, reflect and show solidarity.
“Now is the time for the police and government to recognize that the women’s criminal justice system is failing.
“Tonight women failed again in the most destructive way. We will continue to fight to ensure that women’s voices are heard and are important. “
Hundreds of people gathered in the park in south London despite an official vigil canceled earlier in the day due to police warnings about coronavirus restrictions.
Vigils were also held in places like Glasgow, Nottingham, Birmingham and Bristol.
Separately, Sisters Uncut, an organization calling itself a feminist group that is taking direct action for domestic and sexual violence services, said it would hold a rally in New Scotland Yard on Sunday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would make a candle for Ms. Everard with his fiancée Carrie Symonds, adding that he would think of her family and friends.
He tweeted, “I can’t imagine how unbearable her pain and grief are. We must work quickly to find all the answers to this terrible crime.
“I will do everything I can to make sure the streets are safe and that women and girls are not harassed or abused.”
The Duchess of Cambridge was among those who visited the makeshift memorial at Clapham Common on Saturday to pay her respects and was seen standing in front of the sea of flowers.
It is believed that Kate, alleged to have brought daffodils to the memorial, made the visit in part because she remembers what it felt like to walk around London the night before their wedding.
Elsewhere, Attorney General Robert Buckland said the government would seek ways to improve the exchange of information on criminals between authorities and those at risk.
In the Sunday Telegraph, he wrote: “This Conservative government introduced the Clare Act to protect people from abusive and dangerous relationships, and we will examine whether this approach can be extended to stalking and other crimes of serious concern . ”
Meanwhile, a women’s charity fundraiser by Reclaim These Streets exceeded its £ 320,000 target on Saturday night.
Acting metropolitan police officer Wayne Couzens, who is accused of murdering Ms. Everard, was arrested after his first appearance in court when it was discovered that her body was found in a large construction bag.
Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, is accused of kidnapping and murdering Ms. Everard, who was missing on March 3 on her way home from a friend’s apartment in south London.