Londoners are still in mourning over the tragic death of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, who was reportedly kidnapped and killed earlier this month.
In addition to expressions of sadness, British citizens have also been expressing outrage in the form of public demonstrations over the fact that a police officer was charged with her murder. For their part, London police officers have made it clear that violent and disorderly unrest will not be tolerated.
“Still not safe”
“Police must act for people’s safety,” said Metropolitan Police Service Commissioner Cressida Dick.
She continued by declaring such intervention “is the only responsible thing to do,” citing the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis as a reason to discourage large crowds of protesters.
“The pandemic is not over,” Dick added. “And gatherings of hundreds of people from right across London and beyond are still not safe.”
Four individuals were reportedly arrested at a memorial service for Everard in London on Saturday.
The arrested attendees were detained after officers took them to the floor, with one woman removed from a bandstand, according to news updates.
“Fiendishly difficult policing”
According to the Washington Examiner, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, attended the event, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson signaled that he would also be present.
The police response appears to have been more aggressive than similar reactions to Black Lives Matter protests over the course of last summer. According to the BBC, mass demonstrations broke out in cities across the United Kingdom in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
As the network noted, “many in the crowds work masks and observed social distancing guidance,” although photos revealed a large number of unmasked participants standing in close proximity to one another.
Officers approached Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park to address the protests at that location and another crowd made its way to Parliament Square in London.
When footage of police breaking up the vigil led to fierce criticism of London police, Dick responded: “This is fiendishly difficult policing, but also I’m sure for the people who wanted to express their feelings, that was a difficult situation for them. And that’s why it needs a cold light of day, sober review, and I think we’re all agreed on that.”