OPINION / OBSERVER
Tolerance for police brutality in Everard vigil shows UK’s inner decay
Published: Mar 15, 2021 10:42 PM
Protesters calling for greater public safety for women after the death of Sarah Everard, against the police handling of a gathering on Clapham Common in Sarah Everard's honour and against a proposed law that would give police more powers to intervene on protests hold a fist in the air, including a protester with a bunch of daffodils, as they gather in Parliament Square in central London on Sunday. Photo: AFP

Protesters calling for greater public safety for women after the death of Sarah Everard, against the police handling of a gathering on Clapham Common in Sarah Everard's honour and against a proposed law that would give police more powers to intervene on protests hold a fist in the air, including a protester with a bunch of daffodils, as they gather in Parliament Square in central London on Sunday. Photo: AFP

British public opinion is divided over how to react to a violent crackdown by British police on a vigil for a slain woman. On Saturday evening, a vigil was organized in a London park to pay tribute to Sarah Everard, who was kidnapped and murdered by a London 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. 

While some British people and politicians condemned the conduct of the police, others, including the BBC, refrained criticism on the police, or even showed support for them. 

Those endorsing the police's heavy-handed approach claimed the mourners "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 downplayed the police violence, diverting attention to the "hardest" job in modern policing of maintaining public order at protests. The focus of 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 Britons and British 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 horribly assaulted people they are supposed to protect. They should be condemned and more attention should be paid to calling on the UK to face up to and solve the problem of police violence. Unfortunately, some Britons and media are actually acting the way around. They are racking their brains to blur the nature of the case.

Police brutality has long been a problem in the UK. Black Lives Matter protests that condemned police brutality and systemic racism also erupted in cities across the UK with drawing larger numbers of protesters than expected last year. The death of Everard has exposed the severity of the issue of female safety. Thousands of British 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 offenses committed against women. All these problems deserve more attention than defending police violence. 

Some Britons and media outlets' attempt to whitewash the UK's police brutality also reminds us of how hypocritical they were when treating Hong Kong police officers. During months-long violent protests in Hong Kong in 2019, they strongly condemned the so-called Hong Kong police's 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 some Britons and media have been exposed. It seems in their eyes, unarmed women participating in a peaceful vigil are more "unsafe" than those radical Hong Kong rioters, and UK police's violent acts to disperse peaceful mourners are more appropriate than Hong Kong police being forced to take self-defense measures against radical 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 seeing its inner decay. 


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