"I was terrified. I've never been so scared." Patsy Stevenson recalls the moment she was arrested at Clapham Common vigil
In her first TV interview since being pinned to the ground by police at the vigil for Sarah Everard, Patsy Stevenson spoke to Good Morning Britain.
Speaking to Susanna Reid and Ben Shephard outside Television Centre, Patsy revealed how she was “terrified” during the ordeal and claimed things need to change to protect women.
“Why were police pushing you onto the ground, putting your hands behind your back and arresting you for what happened?” Susanna asked Patsy.
She replied: “I mean, to be honest I still don’t know why I was pushed to the ground so forcefully. I am quite small and it was two very large male officers who sort of pulled me back very quickly and then I hit the ground. From start to finish it was just a sort of whirlwind, it happened very quickly. I was only there to lay a candle down, I did not expect that to happen.”
She explained how she ended up at the vigil, saying: “When I first heard about what was going on, of course a lot of people wanted to go down because there had been videos recently on a social media platform saying, ‘If there were no men for 24 hours, what would you do?’ and a lot of women came forward and said, ‘Well, I would walk the streets at night alone with my headphones in.’ And I thought how strange that a lot of women are saying this and we don’t have the freedom to do that. This was a thing that we all related to and we all wanted to pay our respects.”
Recalling the events that unfolded on Clapham Common on Saturday, she said: “I don’t know what time I arrived but when I did arrive, people were socially distancing. It wasn’t massively packed or anything and some people were on the bandstand. There weren’t a lot of people on the bandstand, there were a few women and they were talking into a speaker. They were projecting their voices and then the police came in.”
Asked what police officers said to them when they approached the bandstand, Patsy recalled: “So I will go from what happened from us getting onto the bandstand. The reason we were on there because police seemed to be, and we didn’t know because we couldn’t hear that well, but they seemed to be sort of aggressively talking to the women on the bandstand and there were quite a few police so we were worried if there is anything going on here, we need to make sure everyone is safe. A few of the women said, ‘Can you come on because we need help?’ I was like, ‘Of course,’ so a few people carefully moved flowers out of the way, we were very careful not to trample anything. You know we were there for a reason. We went onto the bandstand and we were trying to make sure, you know, video things and make sure there was no manhandling or anything was done. Then all of a sudden, there were quite a few police on the bandstand. Now it was distanced until the police came. On the bandstand there were about 30 police and they pushed us towards the edge of the banister that I was holding on to.”
Ben asked: “Were they talking to you though, Patsy? Were they saying, ‘Look we are going to need you to disperse, we need you to get off the bandstand, we are going to have to forcibly remove you if you don’t leave?’”
Patsy answered: “They did but before that they were saying quite a few things that were making people angry and you know I think women have sort of stood by and let things happen for long enough and we all were sort of together and you know I didn’t expect for it to happen so quickly and for everything to happen but I was up against the bandstand. As I was up against the bandstand, the railing, we could see the women next to me, sort of one of them had, the police was trying to get around her neck, someone was being pulled back, so we were trying to hold onto each other and be like, ‘Okay, it’s fine.’ We were terrified because we hear about police manhandling women and stuff like that.”
Asked if she has watched the footage back: “Of course, I have watched it several times. It is absolutely everywhere you look. At that moment there is a police officer by the side of me trying to pull my arm and at one point I pull it away. He was saying, ‘What is your name? Tell me your name, tell me your address.’ There was a guy in front of me giving me like a card saying, ‘If you get arrested, have this’. And he said, “Don’t say anything, you don’t have to tell them your name’. And I have never been arrested, I have never been to one of these things. I am not like an activist or protestor. I just stood there and was like, okay I am not going to say anything. I just tried to look to one side. I didn’t want to retaliate, I didn’t want to react to any of it.”
Asked what she felt as she was pinned to the ground surrounded by police officers, she said: “I was terrified. I have never been so scared honestly. I think what was scary as well was as soon as I was pinned to the ground, I looked up and there were cameras everywhere. I was like oh my God, this is big. I didn’t realise they had even pinned me to the ground for a second. It just like happened so fast and then I was on the ground. I was like, I am on the ground, I am very small. I wasn’t resisting or anything.”
On whether she has any concerns attending the vigil in the middle of a pandemic, she said: “I fully understand that police have to do their job. Do you know what I mean? I am not against police… but you know the organisers were trying to get it so that the police were involved in a safe way and make sure everyone was maintaining social distance. All we wanted was that women were able to mourn and share each other’s company in a safe space and it wasn’t allowed to go ahead. I think people were angry with that. When it came out that we weren’t allowed to, a lot of people were like, ‘We are going because we are going to make it safe.’ We did intend for a safe vigil.”
Ben asked: “Do you think if the police hadn’t have stepped in and tried to force women off the bandstand then it would have dissipated?’ I know it was dark, it was getting colder, there wasn’t any facilities there…”
Patsy said: “Yeah there wasn’t any public toilets or anything, some of us had travelled a bit to get there. We weren’t intending on staying long, like I said I literally was just going to put a candle down and some flowers and show solidarity with other women who had been affected but I wasn’t going to be there long and it just ended up, we ended up staying for quite a while because the police were there and it turned very scary very quickly.”
Susanna asked: “What is your message to Dame Cressida Dick, who is the head of the Metropolitan Police, and says that as a woman she is more determined than ever to fix things?”
Patsy said: “As someone who does stand up for women’s rights and things like that, I don’t have, it’s not that I don’t have an opinion but to be honest, I think we need to get the message away from, ‘We are against the police, the police did wrong’ and focus on the main message which is, ‘We now need to open a dialogue for change and to support women’s safety.’ You know, this needs to happen now.”
Asked what her message is to Sarah Everard’s family, Patsy added: “I just, I cannot understand what they are going through. All we wanted to do was show our respect and support and we are all terribly saddened that it happened.”
On rumours that she is an actress and doing this for her profile, she said: “Not at all. I understand that social media is a very fast thing and people are going to search a name. That was an old profile from years and years back. I am not hired by anyone. I just wanted to put a candle down. I am not an actress, I study at university. I am an ambassador for women in STEM and women in physics and things like that. That is why this was so important and it still is. The message is very important and needs to be ongoing.”
Asked what can be done to make women feel safer, she said: “I am not a professional, I am not a specialist but I think the dialogue has now been opened and we need to come together as a society and make sure that everyone is talking to each other about their experiences, and how they can change themselves. We need to educate people on how they can change and what we can do together. That is how it comes about.”
On the outcome of Saturday night she said: “ I was released very quickly. I wasn’t sure what to do. They asked for my name and that in the van and I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to give my details then… I just didn’t want to waste anymore time… I just gave them my details and they said you will be fined. I wasn’t really sure why I was arrested because I was stood there doing nothing in a way. I was let out sort of 20 minutes after and then after that I was given a fine of £200. I appreciate a lot of people have said they will pay for it, I appreciate that fully but I put myself in that position and that comes down to me.”
She added: “It’s been a whirlwind. There have been times where I have thought I don’t want to be at the centre of this and go viral but at the same time, I just think of all the women that don’t have a voice so I need to do this and I need to make sure that the message is spread. Women’s safety is a priority right now and we need to try and change things.”
“It’s emotional for you?” Susanna asked.
Patsy said: “Yeah, I think it is emotional for a lot of people.”
Asked how it was for her family and friends, she said: “I did let them know as soon as it happened. I did message all of them and say, ‘I am safe, I am fine’ because I didn’t want anyone to worry. But it just, one thing after the other, and then suddenly I was everywhere. It’s been absolute madness.”