Video report by ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand
The head of the Metropolitan Police has said she will not stand down despite calls for her to quit over her force’s actions at a vigil in memory of Sarah Everard.Dame Cressida Dick said "what happened to Sarah appals me" but it has made her "more determined, not less, to lead my organisation."
The Met Police Commissioner defended the action of her officers which she described as “fiendishly difficult policing”.In shocking scenes on Saturday night, officers clashed with crowds who had gathered on Clapham Common to remember the marketing executive.
Male officers could be seen grabbing hold of several women before leading them away in handcuffs, to shouts and screams from onlookers.
Footage shows police arresting a woman and clashes between officers and mourners
Dame Cressida said: “What happened to Sarah appals me. As you know, I’m the first woman commissioner of the Met, perhaps it appals me, in a way, even more because of that.
“What has happened makes me more determined, not less, to lead my organisation."
She said that “all the women and men of the Met are outraged at what has happened and they’re working as hard as they can to get justice for Sarah”.
“In that context, none of us would have wanted to see the scenes we saw at the end of yesterday’s events,” she added.
Cressida Dick rejects calls for her to stand down following clashes between protesters and police at a vigil for Sarah Everard
The Met chief's comments came after Home Secretary Priti Patel and the Mayor of London have both called for an independent investigation into the policing of Saturday night's vigil.
Ms Patel had asked HM’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to conduct a “lessons learned” review into the policing of the event at Clapham Common.
While Sadiq Khan said he would be asking HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Independent Office for Police Conduct to look into the events on Saturday night, after he said Dame Cressida failed to provide him with a satisfactory explanation.
The Home Secretary spoke with the under-fire Met Police commissioner on Sunday, having received her report into the events on Saturday night, but felt there were "still questions to be answered".
Ms Patel asked Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Thomas Winsor to conduct an independent review into what happened - a decision Dame Cressida said she welcomed and is "very comfortable" with.
ITV News Political Correspondent on Dame Cressida Dick's future
The Met Police chief said the review into the policing of Saturday’s vigil would be "good for public confidence".
She added: "What we do in one event sets precedent for other events. I am really comfortable that we review what happened.
"I don’t think anybody who was not in the operation can actually pass a detailed comment on the rightness and wrongness of it."
Dame Cressida said said her officers were in an “invidious” position when crowds grew, continuing: “They then moved to try to explain to people, to engage with people, to get people to disperse from this unlawful gathering and many, many, many people did – unfortunately, a small minority did not.”She said her officers have to make "really difficult calls" when often they do not have "infinite information or all the time in the world."
"I don’t think anybody should be sitting back in an armchair and saying ‘well that was done badly’ or ‘I would have done it differently’ without actually understanding what was going through their minds," she added.
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Earlier on Sunday, Mr Khan said the scenes at the vigil were “completely unacceptable” despite having received assurances from Scotland Yard last week that the vigil would be policed “sensitively”.“In my view, this was not the case,” he said.
Mr Khan said: “I asked the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner to come into City Hall today to give me an explanation of yesterday’s events and the days leading up to them.
“I am not satisfied with the explanation they have provided."
Hundreds of protesters marched on New Scotland Yard before moving to Parliament Square to voice their anger at the police violence seen at Saturday's vigil.
Officers erected barriers around the Metropolitan Police headquarters and the group of demonstrators, many holding placards aloft, spilled over on to the road next to the River Thames.Banners in the crowd said “Men your silence is deafening” and “Cressida you’re a woman too”, while protesters shouted: “Sisters united will never be defeated.”
Signs included messages such as “Times up Priti”, “End state violence”, and “Abolish the police”.
Others said “I need to be able to tell my children I did not stay silent” and “Enough is Enough”, while one said “You don’t protect us”.
The group chanted: “Say it loud, say it clear. Brutality’s not welcome here.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has called on Dame Cressida to resign, while Women’s Equality Party co-founder Catherine Mayer said her position was “untenable”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Commissioner should not quit, but condemned the policing on Saturday as “wrong”.
He told reporters: “I was very disturbed to see the police action. I think it was wrong and I am pleased it is now going to be reviewed.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to have confidence in Dame Cressida and spoke with her on Sunday morning.
Reclaim These Streets had organised the vigil before being forced to cancel following consultation with the Metropolitan Police, which said it would be in breach in coronavirus restrictions.
It has asked Dame Cressida for an urgent meeting so she can “explain the actions taken by the police last night, before she reports to the Home Secretary”.
The Fire Brigades Union added to criticism of the Metropolitan Police’s handling of the vigil, saying it was “shocking and unacceptable”.
“We utterly condemn the violence meted out by the Metropolitan Police last night on Clapham Common,” the union said on Twitter.