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Outrage over Sarah Everard’s kidnapping and murder hits Scotland Yard

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Jiya Saini
Jiya Saini is a Journalist and Writer at Revyuh.com. She has been working with us since January 2018. After studying at Jamia Millia University, she is fascinated by smart lifestyle and smart living. She covers technology, games, sports and smart living, as well as good experience in press relations. She is also a freelance trainer for macOS and iOS, and In the past, she has worked with various online news magazines in India and Singapore. Email: jiya (at) revyuh (dot) com

The violent response to a vigil in London for the young victim, whose case has shocked the UK, has added fuel to the fire against the police institution

Have the British lost confidence in Scotland Yard? Sarah Everard has not meant “another case” kidnapping and murder of a young woman. Thousands of women began to share their daily experiences of intimidation and harassment on social networks when the 33-year-old executive disappeared while she was returning home alone in London. The slogan “reclaim these streets” spread like wildfire to demand greater safety and protection. And the shock was even greater when it was learned that the person arrested as the main suspect was precisely a police officer.

But it does not stop there. When it was believed that the image of the institution could not be more damaged, the photographs of some agents using force and detaining with handcuffs some of the participants of the vigil that was held last weekend in memory of Sarah have led to the last drop. What is at stake now is Cressida Dick’s own position, who in 2017 made history by becoming the first woman to lead the Metropolitan Police.

The case raises a debate full of edges. What is failing for women to continue to fear walking the streets alone? Why do the Police feel defenseless every time they have to act before a demonstration in full social restrictions due to a pandemic? And finally, if it had not been for this event, would the British have turned their attention to a new regulation with which the Government wants to limit certain concentrations?

Sarah’s last living images were recorded on 3 March by the metro security cameras in a south London neighborhood. At 9:00 a.m., she left a friend’s house. She called her boyfriend to say she was on her way back. But she never got home. After a long and harrowing week of searching in which her photograph flooded televisions, newspapers and social media, Scotland Yard ended up stopping one of its own last Tuesday. Wayne Couzens, 48, a father of two, was responsible for ensuring safety on Downing Street, Parliament and embassy area. Sarah’s quartered body was found 24 hours later in Kent County, south-east England, a few miles from the agent’s house. Authorities have also arrested a woman in her thirties for allegedly helping the suspect.

With the events, some cases take on all the prominence and others don’t. It’s all about the circumstances, and Sarah’s were eligible for other women to feel identified with her. Anonymous and famous have recounted the fear they feel when they walk alone at night and a man walks behind their backs, how they carry the keys ready in hand or pretend to phone, or wear sneakers instead of heels in case they have to run.

“All women should feel safe walking our streets, without fear of harassment or violence,” says Interior Minister Priti Patel, who has launched a public consultation process to improve the law. In 24 hours she has received more than 20,000 suggestions.

On Saturday, hundreds of people began flocking to Clapham Park, where Sarah was last seen, to offer flowers and light candles. Among them, Kate herself, Duchess of Cambridge, wife of Prince William, heir to the throne.

Under the slogan, “Reclaim these streets,” the protesters had asked Scotland Yard for permission to hold a rally, but it was denied due to the social restrictions that still exist due to the pandemic. The protesters even went to the High Court of London, but did not receive a clear answer, and fearing a fine of ₤ 10,000, they decided to call off the appointment. In any case, that did not stop people from starting to flock to the park on their own to hold a vigil.

For almost a year, the ambiguities and omissions within the coronavirus restrictions have left both the Police and citizens seeking answers about what is possible and what not to do. Gatherings are prohibited in England, but at the same time, the rules recognize that there are “reasonable excuses” for going outside. In any case, the regulations do not specify whether a vigil for the death of a woman, supposedly at the hands of an agent, is one of those “excuses”.

At first, on Saturday the Police opted to show flexibility and prudence in the face of such a delicate matter and with such an impact on society. However, late in the afternoon, the tension between protesters and officers increased. “You should be ashamed”, “The police did not protect her” or “arrest yours”, shouted some of the participants. Finally, the clashes ended with four detainees. And the images of the agents using force to handcuff the women to the ground appeared in all the newspapers.

Thousands of people demonstrated outside Westminster and Scotland Yard headquarters on Sunday to protest the police action. The rallies also took place this Monday.

Last summer, during the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement, the police decided not to intervene. What’s more, some officers even knelt as a gesture of solidarity. For their part, last week, the security forces decided to look the other way in Glasgow, when thousands of Rangers fans decided to celebrate their team’s victory in the street. They just waited for the concentration to disperse on its own.

Why didn’t they act the same way at Sarah’s vigil? This and other questions about how the operation was developed will have to be answered in the investigation that is being carried out and that, ultimately, could end up forcing the resignation of the head of the institution, Cressida Dick who, for now, has the support of the Government.

“The Police have a very, very difficult job. But there is no doubt that the scenes we saw were very harrowing and therefore it is only right that Tom Winsor, the Police Inspector, does a full report,” says Premier Boris Johnson. “The reality is that the country is united, still in shock and pain because of what happened to Sarah Everard and we must do everything possible to find the answers,” he added.

The shock of the event coincided precisely with the beginning this week of the Westminster processing of the Police, Crime, Judgments and Courts Bill, which, among many other provisions, seeks to give officers greater powers to control concentrations. Among others, it would include the ability to impose start and end times, enforce “maximum noise caps” and prevent protests from taking place in front of Parliament.

The Ministry of the Interior notes that the bill is necessary because the Public Order Act passed in 1986 “is no longer fit to manage the types of protests we experience today,” such as the “Extinction Rebellion,” the social movement aimed at influencing the world’s governments and global environmental policies through nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience. But civil rights organizations are against legislation, according to the Government, all they seek is to limit concentrations that may cause “intimidation,” “abuse, or “alarm” in other citizens. Initially, the Labour opposition had planned to abstain from a law that would otherwise have tiptoed through the House of Commons. But because of the social impact caused by clashes at last Saturday’s vigil, Keir Starmer’s ranks have now decided to vote against the rules.

The problem is that the legislation is not just about protests. It is a very extensive bill, covering everything from sentences for sex offenders and people who assault emergency services workers, as well as reviews of homicides involving offensive weapons and reforms to bail. And the ‘Tories’ now have very easy to criticize the opposition for not supporting them in a regulation that, among others, they say seeks harsher sentences for pedophiles. In any case, many of the protesters believe that MPs would be making a big mistake if they allowed the only political legacy of this case to be a confrontation over legislation that does little to address violence against women.

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