Socialist Worker

Anger as police action at Clapham Common is deemed to have been ‘justified’

by Isabel Ringrose
Issue No. 2748

The police moved in against protesters at Clapham Common

The police moved in against protesters at Clapham Common


A "watchdog"—in truth a tame servant—has found the Metropolitan Police “acted appropriately” at the vigil held for Sarah Everard in Clapham Common earlier this month.

Protesters were outraged when police attacked, hit, pushed, handcuffed and arrested women at the peaceful vigil in south London. 

It was called when news broke that a Met cop had been arrested on suspicion of Sarah’s murder after she went missing while walking home.

The fury at the police violence at Clapham put the state on the back foot. Tory prime minister Boris Johnson was forced to claim he was “deeply concerned”.

And home secretary Priti Patel called for a review, after Met chief Cressida Dick failed to explain why her cops acted the way they did.

But the "independent" investigation Patel commissioned has found that the Met acted in “a measured and proportionate way”.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) said the actions carried out by the police on protesters at the vigil were “justified”.

It claims this was because Covid-19 restrictions banned protests, so the risks of people transmitting the virus “were too great to ignore when planning for and policing the event". 

Despite this, the Tories sent ten million students and workers back into schools the same week.

Calm

HMICFRS also claims officers “did their best to peacefully disperse the crowd” and “remained calm and professional”.

Yet footage and photos from the night tell a very different story—one of a peaceful crowd being violently dispersed by police.

Reclaim These Streets, the group that originally called the Clapham vigil, said the HMICFRS report was "disappointing" and demonstrated "institutional sexism running through the force".

HMICFRS found that public confidence in the cops “suffered as a result of the vigil”.

The inherent racism and sexism of the police mean many people had no confidence to start with. Especially as Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter protests have been met with force.

Despite saying the cops did nothing wrong, HMICFRS added “a more conciliatory response after the event might have served the Met’s interests better”.

The Met’s interests are not to protect people, but to protect those at the top. And the report shows the state trying to cover its back.

Surprise

Ken Marsh, chair of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said the outcome of the report was "no surprise"—which is disgracefully true.

Bowing to the powerful, Labour London mayor Sadiq Khan—who called police actions "unacceptable" at the time—said he accepted the conclusions of the report.

You can’t change the cops
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And rushing to appease the right, Labour leader Keir Starmer also said he accepted the report.

Rage felt by women at the vigil sparked a debate over the role of the police. It has now combined with the movement against the Tories’ new policing bill.

This will see protests restricted and police given the power that will allow them to act as they did at Clapham.

Protection against the majority is crucial for the minority at the top. That’s why they tried to claim the vigil was “hijacked” by radicals and now defend police violence in places like Bristol.

We can’t rely on the Tories, the state, or their reviews to bring the police to account. 

The street movement is where the real power for change is. The protests this weekend across Britain will be crucial to resisting repressive police and fighting the system they uphold.


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