Sarah Everard vigil – Crowds gather outside Parliament for second day of protest over violence against women

HUNDREDS of people have gathered outside Parliament in London for a second day of protest over violence against women.

Crowds have been holding banners in Parliament Square as anger grows over the police's handling of a vigil for Sarah Everard at the weekend.

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People at the protest, which started at 5pm, have been chanting as dozens of police officers watched on.

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement: "A number of groups have gathered in Parliament Square to demonstrate.

"Officers are engaging with those present, urging them not to gather in numbers for their own safety & to prevent the spread of Coronavirus."

Protesters are also opposing a new bill – which is being discussed in Parliament today and tomorrow – which would give police and the home secretary greater powers to crack down on protests.

Under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, police forces would be able to impose a start and end time for demonstrations, set a noise limit and shut down protests that have a "relevant impact on persons in the vicinity".

While the government said police needed more clout to manage "highly disruptive protests", those opposed to the draft law said its "deliberately vague language" could be used to shut down almost any protest – posing a threat to democratic rights.

Sir Peter Fahy, former Greater Manchester Police chief constable told Times Radio there was a "real danger" that rushed legislation could make the job of the police "more difficult", adding: "People need to be really worried about this."

Human rights barrister Adam Wagner, of Doughty Street Chambers, warned the Bill could "hugely expand" police powers to "allow them to stop protests which would cause 'serious unease' and create criminal penalties for people who cause 'serious annoyance'."

A person at the protest in Parliament Square tonight held a banner saying: "Male violence is a male problem."

Another added: "No #PoliceCrackdownBill. They won't protect us, they'll attack us."

The organisers of today's vigil, Sisters Uncut, said: "No more police powers. We will not be silenced."

They added: "Let's demand safety for all women. If the government is serious about ending violence against women, they will halt the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. They will fund domestic violence services instead."

The gathering follows another peaceful protest organised yesterday in Parliament Square.

On Saturday, cops were filmed dragging women away from a bandstand as thousands gathered in Clapham, South London, to remember Sarah.

Reclaim These Streets, who lost a High Court battle to hold the event earlier this week, said in a letter to Met Police Chief Commissioner Cressida Dick they had “reached out proactively” to the Met Police to try and hold a Covid-safe event. 

They said: “We find it particularly extraordinary that you said you would have attended the vigil yourself had it been lawful. 

“The only reason parts what ultimately took place, without our involvement, may have been not lawful (though whether it was or not is unclear) is your Metropolitan Police Force failing to work with the women leading Reclaim These Streets to develop a lawful, proportionate and safe event.”

They also claimed that the Force had “put people at a serious health risk through a lack of Covid-safe marshalling and at risk of being manhandled, fined and arrested by your officers”. 

A women photographed as she was arrested at a vigil for Sarah Everard wept as she told of her terror saying: "I was more scared than I've ever been."

Student Patsy Stevenson was pinned down and cuffed on Saturday night.

She said: "To be honest, I still don't know why I was pushed to ground so forcefully.

"I'm quite small, and it was two very large male officers who pulled me back quickly and I hit the ground.

"From start to finish it was a whirlwind. It happened very quickly – I was only there to lay candle down. I didn't expect that to happen."

Patsy says she was freed just 20 minutes after being taken into custody and ordered to pay a £200 fine.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May has insisted young men and boys must be taught about respect for women and what is acceptable in a relationship.

Speaking in the Commons as MPs considered the police response to the vigil in memory of Sarah Everard, she described the 33-year-old marketing executive as a "bright young woman" who was "dearly loved" by her family.

She added: "We want justice for Sarah. We also want women to be able to feel and be safe on our streets and in their homes."

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