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Issue of violence against women ‘more important than Covid restrictions’

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Demonstrators who defied police requests to gather on Clapham Common on Saturday night have said raising the issue of violence against women is “way more important” than coronavirus restrictions.

There were tense exchanges at times at the large gathering, which police had urged people not to attend amid the pandemic lockdown.

An official event by Reclaim These Streets was cancelled on Saturday morning and an alternative vigil held online.

Sarah Everard death / PA Wire

But crowds of people made their way to Clapham Common’s bandstand at around 6pm on Saturday, with many laying flowers in what has become a growing floral tribute.

Some held placards reading “we will not be silenced” and “she was just walking home”, while the crowd chanted: “Sisters united will never be defeated.”

There were boos, jeers and shouts of “shame on you” from the crowd as Metropolitan Police officers walked on to the bandstand where some demonstrators were chanting.

Officers later walked through the crowd as people dispersed, encouraging those who were left to move away from the area once they had finished paying their respects.

One video posted online showed police officers grabbing women standing within the bandstand before leading them away, to screaming and shouting from onlookers.

Sarah Everard death / PA Wire

A nurse who works in the Clapham area said she felt “conflicted” about attending the gathering because of pandemic restrictions, but decided she had to go.

Mel Clarke said: “I felt very conflicted (about coming) but I just felt that I needed to be here.”

The 33-year-old added: “I’m really pleased that there are a lot of men here. I hope that this is kind of an opportunity for men to learn how women feel, how vulnerable we are.

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