Sarah Everard Vigil Detainees Win Settlement Yet Haunted by Metro Police Actions

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In a poignant interview, Patsy Stevenson, a woman apprehended during the 2021 Sarah Everard vigil, reveals she is still haunted by the event, enduring nightmares due to the actions of the police. Reflecting on the recent past, she shared her feelings of being overwhelmed.

In response to the legal action taken by Stevenson and fellow protester Dania Al-Obeid against their treatment by law enforcement, the Metropolitan Police has compensated the pair. Despite their decision to settle, the police force maintains that it was the “most appropriate resolution”. The women, while relieved at the closure of the case, insist the Met Police have failed to fully acknowledge its wrongdoings.

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Patsy Stevenson had never participated in a public demonstration prior to that fateful day on Clapham Common in March 2021. She attended the vigil, not as an activist or organization member, but with a friend, to place a candle in honor of Sarah Everard, who was abducted, raped, and murdered by Officer Wayne Couzens.

The trouble at the vigil began when a woman asked Stevenson to join her at the front. The woman extending the offer was later identified as Al-Obeid. Recalling the scene, Stevenson says she felt trapped, with several police officers behind her, a crowd in front, and nowhere to run.

Two years on, the memory still haunts Stevenson who said she held onto a railing, fearing being pulled backward into the chilly night. Alongside were four women who chose to stand together in solidarity.

Images from that night of women cuffed and led away by police officers incited public indignation at Scotland Yard’s handling of the situation. The vigil, initially planned as a socially distanced gathering, was scrapped when the Met declared it illegal under lockdown restrictions. Despite this, people still arrived throughout the day, including Catherine, Princess of Wales.

The scene turned tumultuous by evening when the police clashed with the vigil attendees. Letters extending from Commander Karen Findlay for Public Order Policing recognized the women’s valid motivations for attending the vigil, expressing grief and anger over Everard’s death, and demonstrating their dissatisfaction with the Met’s handling.

Stevenson referred to the past few years as “overwhelming” and admitted to “crying non-stop” since hearing of the settlement. Facing the Met had been a daunting experience and the relief from the resolution was considerable. But she would like to insist that the apology from the force wasn’t fully accountable. In her opinion, there had been no valid reason for her arrest.

Complementing Findlay, while acknowledging a fundamental right to protest, also recognized the complications presented by the pandemic for the balance between the threat to public health and law enforcement. Improved responses have been implemented to policing women’s protests and the city is undergoing considerable corrections to address violence against women.

The exact financial compensation remains undisclosed although the solicitors representing the two women have asked the Met to clarify the details of their remedial actions. Regardless, the organizers of the vigil initiated private proceedings which resulted in the Met being judged by two High Court judges for breaching their rights and acting against the law. Consequently, the charges against six protesters accused of violating lockdown restrictions were dropped.

Al-Obeid, amongst those six, considered the aftermath of her arrest as “terrifying [and] confusing”. As a survivor of domestic abuse, she was triggered by accusations of exploiting the vigil for personal agendas.

In conclusion, Al-Obeid views the settlement as a significant milestone, a vindication of being seen and heard. However, a spokesperson for the Met Police argued that the vigil transpired under extraordinary circumstances, justifying the officers as having acted in good faith and adhering to the existing laws at the time. A long-winded legal dispute would not serve any parties’ interests, especially not those who may have already experienced substantial emotional distress.