It is even sadder that a vigil at Clapham Common, and a symbolic nationwide show of solidarity that saw candles lit on doorsteps in memory of Sarah and all female victims of violence, has been so overshadowed by a disturbing debate about the Metropolitan Police’s heavy-handedness.
Let this newspaper stress at the outset that it appreciates the difficulties which can face the police at such gatherings, even more so during a pandemic which has curtailed so many civil liberties for a year.
What it laments, however, is the failure of the police to work with the organisers of the Reclaim The Streets vigil beforehand, as the High Court hoped, to ensure that it complied with social distancing and could pass off peacefully after so much grief and soul-searching.
And it condemns the crassness of male officers physically man-handling female protesters to the ground at a vigil intended to raise awareness about those elements of the police, and justice system, that view women as second class citizens. They’re not.
No wonder Dame Cressida Dick – ironically the Metropolitan Police’s first female Commissioner – was facing calls to resign before she had even briefed Home Secretary Priti Patel on the protest and any mitigating factors behind her force’s insensitivity.
However both need to remember that this is now an issue of trust – and, specifically, how the police can win back the respect, support and confidence of all women from those betrayed by the justice system to those too afraid to walk their streets at night – or even leave their own home. This comes first.
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