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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Police bring brutality to Clapham vigil

by Yu Ning

PUBLIC OPINION is divided over how to react to a violent crackdown by police on a vigil for a murdered woman. Last Saturday evening a vigil was organised in a London park to pay tribute to Sarah Everard, who was kidnapped and murdered by a Metropolitan Police officer, and to call attention to violence against women. Footage showed that police officers forcibly pinned mourners to the ground, handcuffed and took them away amid cries of “shame on you” and “let them go” from onlookers.

Some politicians as well as members of the public condemned the conduct of the police. Others, including the BBC, refrained from criticism of the police and even showed support for them.

Those endorsing the police’s heavy-handed approach claimed the protesters “shouldn’t have been there” citing coronavirus restrictions. A BBC report on Saturday night entitled “Sarah Everard: Confrontation with police at unsafe vigil” put the emphasis on the women being at fault.

Another BBC report on Sunday, which headlined “Sarah Everard: What went wrong at the Clapham vigil?” also down-played the police violence, diverting attention to the “hardest” job in modern policing of maintaining public order at protests. The focus of the BBC is “whether a vigil could take place at all” especially against the background that “for almost a year, the ambiguities and omissions within the coronavirus restrictions have left both the police and the public grasping for answers as to what is possible in public”.

Since when have the media become so concerned about complying with coronavirus restrictions and maintaining social distancing? They are merely finding excuses to defend police brutality.

A peaceful vigil aimed at opposing violence against women ironically ended up in more violence against women. The issue lying at the core is that the police have brutally assaulted people they are supposed to protect. They should be condemned and more attention should be paid to calling on the Government to face up to and solve the problem of police violence. Unfortunately, some of the media are actually acting the other way around. They are racking their brains to blur the nature of the case.

Police brutality has long been a problem in Britain. Black Lives Matter protests that condemned police brutality and systemic racism also erupted in cities across the country last year – drawing even larger numbers of protesters than expected.

The death of Sarah Everard has exposed the severity of the issue of female safety. Thousands of women took to social media to talk about their experiences of being stalked, harassed, or attacked, as well as safety issues and the criminal justice system’s failure to prosecute offences committed against women. All these problems deserve more attention than defending police violence.

Media outlets’ attempts to whitewash police brutality reminds us of how hypocritical they were over Hong Kong. During months-long violent protests in Hong Kong in 2019, they strongly condemned the Hong Kong police’s so-called “brutality” despite the fact that Hong Kong police officers had shown their utmost restraint in front of violent rioters.

The hypocrisy and double standards of the media has been exposed. It seems in their eyes, in a peaceful vigil are more of a threat than these Hong Kong rioters, and the London police’s violent action to disperse peaceful mourners are more appropriate than the Hong Kong police being forced to take self-defence measures against violent mobs.

The police could have worked with the mourners to support a safe COVID-19 vigil. Instead, they disgracefully brought more violence. It’s more shameful that there is even tolerance for such police brutality. The UK, once an empire on which the sun never set, is now seeing the reality of its inner decay.

Global Times