Two women who were arrested while attending a Sarah Everard vigil in London in 2021 have been paid damages and received an apology from the Metropolitan Police.
A lawyer’s statement on Thursday confirmed that the London police force had apologized and agreed to pay “substantial” damages to the women, Patsy Stevenson and Dania Al-Obeid.
The vigil took place in Clapham Common, London, in memory of Everard, a 33-year old who was murdered by a serving Met officer while walking home in early March 2021. Strict Covid restrictions were in place at the time.
The police force was criticized by women’s rights activists for its heavy handling of protesters towards the end of the event.
Officers forcibly removed women from the bandstand and some, including Stevenson, were pinned down to the ground.
“Together with making payments of substantial damages to Dania Al-Obeid and Patsy Stevenson, the MPS has issued an apology,” the statement by law firm Bindmans LLP reads.
According to the law firm, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) “acknowledge that women wanted to attend the vigil because they were ‘understandably’ feeling ‘badly let down by the Met’, that the purpose of the vigil was to facilitate public expression of grief and anger, and that people’s presence at it was protected by the fundamental right to protest.”
“The MPS has expressed regret that Patsy and Dania’s opportunity to express grief and anger was ‘curtailed by [their] arrest and removal’ and that these legal proceedings have been necessary,” the firm added.
‘Tiring and difficult’ process
In a statement published by Bindmans LLP, Patsy Stevenson said the process had been a “tiring and difficult” one.
“It has taken over two years to reach this conclusion, it’s been a really tiring and difficult process but it has felt important to push for some form of accountability and justice for myself and all women who attended the vigil to express our anger and grief over the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Metropolitan Police officer,” Stevenson said.
“I’m glad that the police have recognised that we had a fundamental right to protest but since then this right has been further eroded and undermined by the Public Order Act. It is our politicians who have rewarded the Met with greater police powers despite the murder of Sarah Everard and the policing of the vigil, which has exposed deeply embedded misogyny within the Met Police internationally,” she added.
Stevenson said she was “relieved this chapter is over,” and she will “continue to stand in solidarity with all those fighting for truth, justice and accountability arising from racist, misogynistic or homophobic policing.”
Dania Al-Obeid said she found the journey “incredibly difficult but very important as a survivor of domestic violence and someone who has been failed by the police in that context.”
Al-Obeid said she has felt “empowered holding the police to account for how they have treated me and other women who attended the vigil.”
She added; “I have found my voice through this process and I finally feel heard. I appreciate that the Met Police have acknowledged our motivations for attending it but ‘badly let down’ is an understatement. I have felt abused, abandoned by the police prior to, during and post the vigil – I do not feel protected or safe with any police force.”
A spokesperson for the Met Police said in a press release Thursday that the Clapham Common vigil “took place in extraordinary circumstances, in the midst of a pandemic where restrictions on gatherings were in force for very valid public health reasons and in the days immediately following the most appalling murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Met officer.”
“We tried to achieve a balance that recognised the rights of the public to protest and to express their grief and sadness, while also continuing to enforce the relevant Covid legislation,” the spokesperson continued.
“We are working every day to make London a city where women and girls can feel and be safe and where communities can have trust and confidence in their police service.”