In March 2021, hundreds of people gathered on Clapham Common to pay their respects to Sarah Everard, who was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by a serving Metropolitan Police officer earlier that month. Three months later, a government enquiry found that police breached fundamental rights at the vigil, misinterpreting the coronavirus laws that were in effect, antagonising demonstrators, and using excessive force as they violently manhandled women at the scene.
Now, two women arrested at the gathering – Patsy Stevenson and Dania Al-Obeid – have been paid “substantial” damages by the Metropolitan Police, after successfully taking legal action against the force.
The hard-won settlement follows years of legal battles, bringing to light the Met’s longstanding priority to protect their own at the expense of the people they’re supposed to serve. It also coincides with a widespread loss of faith in the police force across London, with internal reports concluding that it can “no longer presume” that Londoners consent to its presence.
According to the Met, settling was “the most appropriate decision, to minimise the ongoing impact on all involved”. In a letter to Stevenson and Al-Obeid, Karen Findlay, commander for major events and public order policing for London, also said that she acknowledged “[their] motivations in attending the vigil were to express [their] grief and anger” over Everard’s death, as well as their “concern and dissatisfaction” at the Met’s involvement. Both women have expressed relief at the settlement in statements ot the press, but question whether the police force’s apology is sufficient.
Images of women being arrested at the Sarah Everard vigil caused immediate outrage online, with an image of Stevenson being pinned to the floor going viral on social media. Subsequent demonstrations were staged by groups such as Sisters Uncut, calling for action against male and state violence against women. In April 2023, the UK government confirmed that it had backtracked on promises to make misogyny a hate crime in light of Everard’s murder, saying that it “may prove more harmful than helpful” to victims.
Revisit Dazed’s coverage of the Sarah Everard vigil to hear directly from protesters on the scene.