Dame Cressida Dick, Metropolitan Commissioner
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick is under pressure to quit after officers clashed with women during a vigil for Sarah Everard.
Fighting broke and several protesters were manhandled and led away in handcuffs.
Scotland Yard said four people had been arrested for public order offences and breaking lockdown rules.
The vigil on Clapham Common in South London came only hours after a serving police officer appeared in court charged with the kidnap and murder of Ms Everard.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said film of the police action – shown widely on social media – was “upsetting”.
She has asked for a full report on the evening’s troubles.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “urgently seeking an explanation”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the scenes were “deeply disturbing”.
He added: “This was not the way to police this protest.”
The strongest criticism came from Sir Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrats leader.
In a stiffly worded letter to Dame Cressida, he wrote:
“This was a complete abject tactical and moral failure on the part of the police.
“We therefore call on you to consider your leadership of the service and whether you can continue to have the confidence of the millions of women in London that you have a duty to safeguard and protect.”
The vigil had been organised by Reclaim These Streets but was later cancelled after not agreeing conditions with the Met.
A Reclaim statement said: “In doing so they created a risky and unsafe situation.
“It is their responsibility to protect public order, public health and the right to protest – they have failed on all accounts.
“Women across the country are deeply saddened and angered by the scenes of police officers physically manhandling women at a vigil against male violence”.
“This week of all weeks, the police should have understood that women would need a place to mourn reflect and show solidarity.
“Now is the time for the police and the government to recognise that the criminal justice system is failing women.
“Tonight, it has failed women again, in the most destructive way.”
The vigil had started peacefully but turned to anger when the police moved in on a bandstand covered in flowers.
Several women were led away – prompting the crowd to chant at the police “shame on you”.
Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball said:
“Around 6pm, more people began to gather close to the bandstand within the common.
“Some started to make speeches from the bandstand.
“These speeches then attracted more people to gather closer together.
“At this point, officers on the ground were faced with a very difficult decision.
“Hundreds of people were packed tightly together, posing a very real risk of easily transmitting COVID-19.”
“Those who gathered were spoken to by officers on a number of occasions and over an extended period of time.
“We repeatedly encouraged those who were there to comply with the law and leave.
“Regrettably, a small minority of people began chanting at officers, pushing and throwing items.”
“We absolutely did not want to be in a position where enforcement action was necessary.
“But we were placed in this position because of the overriding need to protect people’s safety.
“Let me end by saying that across the Met we review every single event that we police to see if there are lessons that can be learnt.
“This one will be no different.”
Ms Everard, 33, disappeared on March 3rd after leaving her friend’s home near Clapham Common to walk to her flat in Brixton.
Her body was later found in a builder’s bag in a wood in Kent.
Wayne Couzens, 48, a Metropolitan Police officer, appeared before Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Saturday charged with her kidnap and murder.
Video: YouTube The Sun