Protesters who resisted police calls to rally on Clapham Common Saturday night said the issue of violence against women was “far more important” than coronavirus restrictions.
At the large gathering, there was a tense exchange at times, during which the police asked people not to participate in the pandemic.
An official Reclaim These Streets event was canceled Saturday morning and an alternative vigil was held online.
But around 6pm on Saturday, many people made their way to the Clapham Common bandstand, and many were laying flowers in tribute.
Some held placards that read “We are not going to be silenced” and “She just went home” while the crowd sang, “The united sisters will never be defeated.”
There were boos, ridicule and shouts of “Shame on You” from the crowd as Metropolitan Police officers walked to the bandstand where some protesters were singing.
Officials later walked through the crowd as the people dispersed, encouraging those who were left to move away from the area as soon as they had paid their respects.
A video posted online showed police officers grabbing women standing in the bandstand before leading them away to scream and yell at the crowd.
A nurse who works in the Clapham area said she felt “conflicted” over pandemic restrictions but decided she had to leave.
Mel Clarke told the PA news agency, “I felt very much at odds (about coming) but I just felt like I had to be here.”
The 33-year-old added: “I am very happy that there are so many men here. I hope this is some kind of opportunity for men to learn how women feel, how vulnerable we are.
“I hope this is the beginning of justice for Sarah.”
Two friends who live there said they “showed our respect”.
Megan Taylor, 23, said, “It’s a good feeling of community when it’s so scary to see people come together like this in these times.”
She said it was “nice to see so many” men present “” who also want to show their respect “.
22-year-old Sophie, who refused to give her last name, said people seemed to be following coronavirus rules as best they could
She said, “It’s difficult. Obviously, everyone is hopefully wearing masks and being reasonable about how long they will be around people. I think such things (demonstration) are important. “
Eve James and her boyfriend Joe Webster, both 26 years old, also attended.
Ms. James said, “I was on the fence about whether to come or not for following the rules as closely as possible, but all week I couldn’t stop thinking about Sarah.
“I lived in Clapham, moved to Fulham a year ago and felt so strong it could be any of us.”
Mr Webster said, “With Covid guidelines or whatever, it doesn’t matter. It’s much more important than that.”
When asked if he thought it was important for men to attend the event, he said, “Of course.
“Men have to learn for themselves how to make things better for women. If that’s part of the process, we’ll make it happen.”
When the emotions at the gathering became high, the police said it had become “unsafe” and asked people to go home.
A tweet from the Lambeth police account said, “The gathering at #ClaphamCommon is unsafe. Hundreds of people are packed tightly together, which is illegal and public health at risk.
“We urge people to go home and we thank those who have dealt with officials and leave.”
The city police were criticized for monitoring the gathering. One MP described her as “heartbreaking and crazy to look at”.