Cressida Dick is reminded of her past as she faces resignation calls over Sarah Everard’s vigil
By Ricky Browne
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick is under increasing calls to resign from her position as head of the UK’s largest police force, following police actions on Saturday to break up a vigil on Clapham Common to mark the life of Sarah Everard.
Everard went missing on March 3 and was known to have walked in Clapham Common in London on the night of her disappearance on her way home to Brixton. Her remains were later discovered in a field in Kent, and a police officer attached to the diplomatic community was arrested in connection with her murder.
The vigil was planned for Saturday, but was cancelled by organisers Reclaim These Streets, when Scotland Yard said that the event to pay respects to the 33-year-old Everard would be illegal due to the pandemic protocols. People could be fined £10,000 for attending.
But hundreds of people – mainly women – went to Clapham Common anyway, to lay flowers and to light candles to pay respect to the former marketing executive. Among the people who went to show their respect, was the Duchess of Cambridge, who placed a bunch of daffodils from her garden alongside other flowers at the Bandstand during a quieter period of the day.
Everard’s death has created great concern for women’s safety on the streets, especially the streets of London.
Later in the evening as many as 2,000 people gathered at the bandstand to listen to speeches about women’s rights and the life of Everard. But as night fell, the police moved in and started to pin down several women, arresting and handcuffing many of them. Photographs went out across the media.
The arresting and manhandling of women who were gathered to show respect to a women who may have been killed by a police officer has created a public relations nightmare for the police.
On the one hand the police wanted to disband the crowd which were breaking Covid restrictions by being so close to each other. On the other hand their image was already taking a battering due to the fact that one of their own was implicated in Sarah’s murder.
It wasn’t going to be an easy to find the correct balance. But on the other hand, it was pointed out that similar vigils took place in other British cities, where no similar incident occurred.
As a woman, many may have expected the Met chief to have approached the vigil composed mainly of women, in a more understanding and perhaps less aggressive fashion. But that was not the case.
Even so there have been a number of calls for the resignation of the Met chief Dame Cressida Dick is the first woman to head the Metropolitan Police Force and her five year contract is due to end in April 2022.
“None of us would have wanted to see the scenes we sa. Of course I fuly understand the strength of feeling as a woman. Indeed, if it had been lawful, I would have been there” Dick was reported to have said.
It is unknown if she intends to issue some sort of sanction against the Duchess of Cambridge.
Among those who have spoken out against the Commissioner is London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who said he was “not satisfied” with the explanation the force.
Meanwhile, Home Secretary Priti Patel said there would be an independent review into what happened at Clapham Common.
But this isn’t the first time that the commissioner has had her actions investigated. Several years ago her actions in the 2005 death of an innocent Brazilian man who was mistaken for a terrorist on the London underground, looked like it could have cut her career short. But by 2007 she was cleared of any personal responsibility.
Instead her career continued unabated, until she came to the hold the top position at the Met.
The point was made by several people on Twitter, including Barnaby Raine, who tweeted “Cressida Dick supervised the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent man on his way to work. She said, “if you ask me whether I think anybody did anything wrong or unreasonable on the operation, I don’t think they did.” Then, of course, they made her head of the Met.” The tweet was liked 692 times after four hours.
He followed up with another tweet, which read: “The de Menezes family did everything right; they even wrote a measured letter to politicians begging them not to appoint an official bullish about the death of their innocent loved one to run @metpoliceuk. They were brushed aside, dismissed.”
In fact, the name of Jean Charles de Menezes was trending on Twitter on Saturday – a name which the commissioner would probably prefer to be forgotten.
“I’m glad Jean Charles de Menezes is trending. We should never forget the lies the Met Police kept repeating to cover up the fact they held down an innocent man and shot him dead in cold blood because they screwed up an operation led by Cressida Dick, now in charge of the Met,” tweeted Amanda Lees on Saturday. The tweet got 7,200 likes by Monday.
“Four words should have prevented Cressida Dick ever leading the Met in the first place: Jean Charles de Menezes,” tweeted Mic Wright @ brokenbottleboy o the 13th. His tweet got 3,300 likes.
“How the career of Cressida Dick even survived the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes is one of wonders of recent policing history How her career then prospered is one of its deepest disgraces,” tweeted davidallengreen also on the 13th, getting 3,500 likes.
“Important to remember that not only was cressida dick responsible for the operation that killed jean charles de menezes but that the cover up was so immediate and amplified by the media that lots of people still believe he jumped the gates. they will always protect their own,” tweeted Jonathan Nunn @demarionunn. His tweet got 9,400 likes.
So, there will be many who will look for some revenge served cold as the commissioner faces off the calls for her resignation. Many have not forgotten what happened to Jean Charles de Menezes, and hold Cressida Dick at least partially responsible.
Dick said she had no intention of resigning. She received support from Patel, from Prime Minister Boris Johnson and from Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer. Given her previous ability to have her career progress unhurt by the murder of the Brazilian, she may be right in thinking that this too will pass.