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Boris Johnson leaps to embattled Met commander’s defense as policing crisis intensifies

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Despite expressing half-hearted sympathy with the female protesters who were brutalized on Saturday's vigil Boris Johnson appears determined to defend the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police

As the social and political fallout from the shocking murder of Sarah Everard continues to reverberate across the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come out in strong support of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Dame Cressdia Dick.

Dick – who is effectively the commander of all police officers in London – is facing growing calls to resign after the Met Police violently suppressed a vigil for murdered Londoner, Sarah Everard.

Everard, 33, was abducted in Clapham Common (South London) on March 03 and her body was later found in woodland in Kent nine days later.

To make matters worse, Met Police officer, Wayne Couzens, 48, has been charged with Everard’s kidnap and murder.

When asked by reporters in Coventry if he had full confidence in the Met Police Commissioner Dick, the PM curtly replied: “Yes, I do. And what she’s asked is we look at what happened on Saturday night”.

"The police do have a very, very difficult job, but there's no question that the scenes that we saw were very distressing”, the PM added by referencing the Met Police’s violent suppression of the peaceful vigil in Clapham.

Johnson was insistent that Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Tom Windsor, should be allowed the space to conduct a full investigation into events leading up to and during the violent policing of the vigil.

Confusion in high places  

In an indication of the impact of Everard’s murder on policing and security in the capital, both London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and Home Secretary, Priti Patel, simultaneously called for Tom Windsor to investigate the policing of the vigil on Saturday, March 13.  

This led a seasoned British journalist to wonder who is actually in charge of the Metropolitan Police: the London Mayor or the Home Secretary.

🤔 Both the Home Secretary *and* the Mayor of London have tasked HM's Inspectorate of Constabulary with investigating police activity at the vigil last night...

Prompts the key question: which politician actually presides over the Met?

— Lucy Fisher (@LOS_Fisher) March 14, 2021

The confusion and anxiety doesn’t just revolve around the rapid pace of events since Everard’s murder but more importantly perhaps it is tied to the huge context and background which exacerbate the killing’s impact.

Since Everard’s murder, credible information and statistics have come to light which point to the near-universality of sexual violence directed at women living in the UK.

According to a survey by UN Women UK, 97 percent of British women aged 18-24 say they have been sexually harassed, while a further 80 percent of women of all ages claim they have been the victim of sexual harassment in public spaces.

Criminalizing protests?

Everard’s murder, and the national soul searching it has engendered, has not deterred the government from pressing ahead with ratifying a new bill on policing.

Entitled the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, the proposed legislation – which predates Everard’s murder – is principally concerned with introducing tougher powers to crack down on protests in the wake of the Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter demonstrations in 2020.

Labor Party leader, Keir Starmer, opposes the bill on the grounds that it does nothing “meaningful” to protect women from meeting the same fate as Everard.

Following Everard’s murder, Starmer has called for a “pause” to the legislative process surrounding the bill in the House of Commons so that all parties can “work together” to “improve” the bill.

Meanwhile, 150 organizations – comprised of human rights groups, unions and faith communities – have warned that the 307-page bill starts the journey on the slippery slope toward the criminalization of peaceful protests.

At present all signs and indications point to the government trying to exploit Everard’s murder to push through draconian legislation that will turn the UK into hostile territory for people wishing to stage protests on key contentious issues, such as the environment and racism.

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