0705 GMT October 17, 2021
Officers scuffled with some members of the hundreds-strong crowd that gathered despite coronavirus restrictions for a candlelit tribute late Saturday close to the spot where 33-year-old marketing executive Sarah Everard disappeared on March 3, AFP reported.
Everard was later found dead in a nearby wood. Wayne Couzens, 48, a serving officer in the Metropolitan Police's elite diplomatic protection unit, appeared in court earlier on Saturday charged with kidnap and murder following his arrest at his home in Kent, southeast England.
Everard's disappearance, and the huge search to find her, has renewed attention on women's safety in public places and the issue of male violence.
She had visited friends in Clapham and was returning home to Brixton, about 50 minutes walk away, when she disappeared around 9:30 p.m. on March 3.
Her body was found this week in Kent, southeast England.
Thousands of women have shared their stories online about the safety precautions they have to take on a daily basis, and their experience of intimidation, harassment and assault by men.
Reclaim These Streets – who initially organized the vigil in south London's Clapham – condemned the actions of officers "physically manhandling women at a vigil against male violence."
Social media footage showed police restraining and handcuffing some mourners, leading to an outpouring of criticism from across the political spectrum.
Both Home Secretary Priti Patel and London mayor Sadiq Khan said they had asked for explanations from the Metropolitan Police over how the vigil was handled.
And Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey called for Metropolitan Police Chief Cressida Dick to resign, having "lost the confidence of millions of women in London".
But one of Dick's deputies, Helen Ball, said police, who had refused permission for the vigil to take place, "must act for people's safety".
"Hundreds of people were packed tightly together, posing a very real risk of easily transmitting COVID-19" she added in a statement early Sunday – Mother's Day in Britain.
"Regrettably, a small minority of people began chanting at officers, pushing and throwing items.”
"We absolutely did not want to be in a position where enforcement action was necessary. But we were placed in this position because of the overriding need to protect people's safety," she said.