Police chiefs have defended the action of officers at a vigil in memory of Sarah Everard under pressure to explain how the incident was handled.
A crowd gathered in Clapham Common, London 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 Deputy Commissioner Helen Ball said the officers were “placed in a position where enforcement is necessary”.
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 asked for 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. ”
However, Deputy Commissioner Ball replied: “Hundreds of people were packed tightly together, which is a very real risk for the simple 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. “
Vigils were also held in places like Glasgow, Nottingham, Birmingham and Bristol.
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.
She was missing when she walked home from a friend’s apartment in south London on March 3.