Priti Patel told the Commons she had had “extensive discussions” with the metropolitan police chief before officers interrupted a peaceful vigil for Sarah Everard over the weekend, saying people should be able to lay flowers.
But, in her first criticism of the meeting, the Interior Secretary claimed that the vigil had been “hijacked” by protesters and said that undermining faith in the police would ultimately fail the victims.
His statement came before protesters took to the streets of central London for the second night in a row, blocking traffic on Westminster Bridge. Hundreds of Reclaim These Streets activists chanted and held banners as police stopped oncoming cars. The protesters then moved to the Met headquarters in Scotland Yard shouting “what a shame” and “our streets” as officers watched.
After the crowd received an ultimatum to go home or be detained for violating coronavirus restrictions, there were multiple arrests.
Johnson chaired a meeting of the criminal justice task force on Monday, attended by Met Commissioner Cressida Dick, as well as the attorney general and attorney general, where he said the government promised to immediately double the fund for Safer Streets at £ 45 million. to improve public lighting and CCTV.
The government also announced that it would launch a pilot of a “vigilante project,” an approach taken by Thames Valley police in which undercover officers monitor predators in clubs and bars, as well as an increase in patrols as the people leave at closing time.
Johnson said at the end of the meeting that Everard’s murder had “unleashed a wave of feelings that women don’t feel safe at night.” He said he hoped the steps would bring him more peace of mind right away. “Ultimately, we must eliminate violence against women and girls and make every part of the criminal justice system work to better protect and defend them.” he said.
On Monday, the Met said an autopsy on Everard’s body was inconclusive as to the cause of death after the 33-year-old’s remains were found in a woods in Kent. An investigation into his death is expected to be opened and lifted this week. A serving Met officer has been charged with her murder.
Patel, making a statement to MPs about the events on Clapham Common in south London on Saturday, which prompted calls for Dick to resign, said he had made it clear that local residents bringing flowers was “absolutely the right thing to do.”
However, Patel did not explicitly say whether he had expressed an opinion on how officers should act if a mass gathering was held without police permission. Police removed and violently arrested some attendees on the grounds that they were breaking Covid rules.
The Home Secretary hinted that she sympathized with the police’s view that the vigil had been hijacked, in other signs that the Home Office is prepared to protect Dick.
“I am shocked by the way the vigil on Saturday night was controlled, the situation demanded sensitivity and compassion, something that was obviously lacking,” she said. “But it also amazes me that what started as a peaceful and important vigil has turned into a protest with photographs showing signs for ‘ACAB’, which stands for ‘All cops are bastards.’
“I am concerned that a young woman [alleged] the murder could be hijacked by those seeking to defund the police and destabilize our society, making it even more difficult for women to come forward and report the assaults. “
Labor demanded that Patel release the minutes of meetings he held with the Met, with shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds, accusing ministers of a “chronic failure” on violence against women and girls.
While both Patel and Boris Johnson have raised concerns about policing the vigil, they maintain confidence in Dick. In his statement, Patel said that he had asked the police for a report and a review by Her Majesty’s Police Inspectorate.
Johnson said he was “very concerned” and promised the government would make sure that women felt “properly heard and cared for” when making complaints of sexual assault or harassment. “The police have a very difficult job, but there is no doubt that the scenes we saw were very harrowing,” he said during a visit to Coventry.
When asked by Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, if he had spoken to Dick before the Everard vigil, Patel said the police were “legitimately independent from an operational standpoint.” She said: “I was in contact with the metropolitan police commissioner on Friday and throughout the weekend, and we have had extensive discussions in terms of planning, preparation, for the weekend vigil.”
Since on Friday the organizers of the vigil were involved in a court case over the legality of the event, the police were working on “various plans” for it, Patel said.
And he added: “I will be very clear, however, that my opinions were known on Friday, and they were based on the fact that people who wanted to pay tribute, obviously within the locality, taking into account that we are in a pandemic, we cannot To forget that people who live locally, clearly that they went out every day, passing by, putting flowers, is absolutely the right thing to do, and we saw a lot of people doing that. “
In a separate statement, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he had met with the organizers of Reclaim These Streets and said he “listened and shared their concerns about police decisions made before and during the vigil.” Khan also raised concerns about the draft law on police, crime, sentencing and the courts, saying it was “more focused on statues than women.”
Dick’s position appeared to be in jeopardy after Patel and Khan berated her publicly. But Anna Birley of Reclaim These Streets said the group was not asking for Dick to leave.
In the Commons, Thomas-Symonds challenged Patel on the bill, saying it mentioned the word “memorial” eight times and that “women” didn’t mention it at all. The items were drawn up after the Black Lives Matter protests last year, which sparked a debate about the role of statues of people involved in slavery and colonialism.
Responding to Thomas-Symonds, Patel argued that, as a criminal law and sentencing bill, it dealt with all potential crime victims, so there was no need to specifically mention women.
Wayne Couzens, a serving Met officer, has been charged with the kidnapping and murder of Everard, who was walking home from a friend’s home when he disappeared.
On Monday, his peers voted in favor of an amendment to the domestic violence bill that would create a registry of stalkers and abusers, which government sources have hinted they could adopt when he returns to the Commons.
Labor fellow Janet Royall said it was the result of the victims’ campaigning over many years. “Women are tired of domestic abuse and stalking being considered a ‘women’s problem’, and we have spent years asking us to change our behavior. The culture of misogyny has to change and our amendment will now focus on the perpetrators, the men who commit the vile crimes. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism