By Laura Harman
In March a vigil held for Sarah Everard who at the time was a missing person. It has just been announced that the police presence at this vigil used ‘excessive force’ and breached fundamental protest rights.
Sarah Everard was a young woman who went missing while walking home from Clapham Junction to her home in Tulse Hill. There was a public outcry after details of the case emerged, prompting nationwide solidarity with Sarah and her family.
Reclaim These Streets, an organization fighting for more regulations around women's safety, organized the vigil in Clapham, which gained the attention of the media across the world, particularly as Kate Middleton attended the event. The Duchess of Cambridge paid tribute to Sarah Everard, laying flowers in front of the bandstand in Clapham Common.
It has been announced that this vigil was policed by officers who used 'excessive force' on those paying their respects.
The Duchess of Cambridge has paid her respects to Sarah Everard at Clapham Common bandstand pic.twitter.com/fOCDsV8SuRMarch 13, 2021
This was the finding of the all-party parliamentary group on democracy (APPG) whose inquiry found Metropolitan Police and Avon and Somerset Constabulary, “failed to understand their legal duties in respect of protest” or to “conduct a proper assessment of the proportionality of their actions," when policing the Clapham vigil and Bristol protest.
The APPG, hosted an inquiry into the protest laws that have been proposed in the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts (PCSC) Bill.
The AAPG inquiry's chairman, Labour MP Geraint Davies, said both the vigil and the protest make it evident that the “law must be clear that the police have a duty to facilitate the right to peaceful protest”.
Davies continued to say, “The police must not become the enforcement agency of the state against those who choose to publicly and collectively call for change—political, economic, social or environmental."
“Parliament must protect our freedoms and reject attempts to increase police power and restrict our right to peaceful protest. The police should help to facilitate the expression of peaceful protest and not drive opposition underground,” he concluded.
When Sarah’s death was confirmed, Kate Middleton sent a heartfelt letter to the family of Sarah Everard.
A source told the Mirror, "Kate’s letter was deeply personal and heartfelt, she expressed her absolute sadness at what Sarah’s family and loved ones are going through.
"She said she knows that no words can change what happened but that she wanted to let them know that they and Sarah are in her thoughts."
Reclaim These Street raised a huge amount of money and announced how the half a million pounds raised on behalf of Sarah Everard was spent.
Reclaim These Streets organizer Jamie Klingler told The Observer that there was immense pressure on the group to distribute the funds evenly.
The group has since decided to distribute the donations among various charities and specifically target women who are in minority groups that are regularly underfunded.
“We wanted to focus on access to legal support, we want to be trans-inclusive and we are very aware that grassroots organizations for women of color often get overlooked in funding decisions," said Klingler.
"So that was very much our brief of where the money should go."
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