The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has deleted a tweet that condemned the Metropolitan Police following the events which unfolded on Clapham Common over the weekend.
‘Reclaim These Streets’ intended to hold a candlelit vigil for Sarah Everard after her body was found in woodland several days after she disappeared.
Wayne Couzens, a former Civil Nuclear Constabulary officer who transferred to the Met’s Diplomatic Protection Group two years ago, has been charged with Ms Everard’s abduction and murder.
The Met had spoken to the organisers of the ‘Reclaim The Streets’ vigil and, due to current Covid restrictions that the Government put in place, asked them not to go ahead with the event over their concerns regarding the spread of Covid.
With a heavy heart, the organisers of the vigil agreed to cancel the event and instead asked supporters to hold a vigil at home in memory of Ms Everard.
However, hundreds of people still turned up at Clapham Common, where ‘Reclaim These Streets’ had planned for the event to go ahead, despite the official vigil being cancelled.
After becoming concerned by the number of people – many of who were not wearing masks and who were not social distancing – present at the gathering, Met liaison officers tried to engage with the crowd and asked them to return home.
Many of them did, but small pockets of attendees defied the lawful requests made by the police, and instead started to hurl abuse at the police and threw objects at them.
Speaking a few hours after the incident, MPS Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball said:
‘For over six hours, hundreds of people came to lay flowers and pay their respects to Sarah in Clapham Common in a safe and lawful way.
‘At around 6pm, more people began to gather close to the bandstand within the Common. Some started to make speeches from the bandstand. These speeches then attracted more people to gather closer together.
‘At this point, officers on the ground were faced with a very difficult decision. Hundreds of people were packed tightly together, posing a very real risk of easily transmitting Covid-19.
‘Police must act for people’s safety, this is the only responsible thing to do. The pandemic is not over and gatherings of people from right across London and beyond, are still not safe.
‘Those who gathered were spoken to by officers on a number of occasions and over an extended period of time. We repeatedly encouraged those who were there to comply with the law and leave.
‘Regrettably, a small minority of people began chanting at officers, pushing and throwing items.
‘After speaking with officers, the vast majority of people quickly left.
‘Four arrests [were] made for public order offences and for breaches of the Health Protection Regulations’.
During the unrest, one police officer was punched in the face, causing reddening to her cheek.
At least one police vehicle was damaged as officers tried to break up the remaining groups’ elements, which had become unruly and which were hurling abuse at the police.
Shortly after the majority of the mainstream media had shared partial video clips of the events, the Fire Brigades Union, which represents many of the rank-and-file firefighters in the UK tweeted:
‘We utterly condemn the violence meted out by the Metropolitan Police last night on Clapham Common.
‘These grotesque displays have no place in our society.
‘We send our solidarity to the family and friends of Sarah Everard and all those who want to end violence against women and girls’.
The tweet had since been deleted.
Many of the FBU’s own members responded to the tweet with relative disdain.
In a show of solidarity, one firefighter posted an image of a firefighters, police officers and paramedics helmet positioned next to each other.
Another firefighter added:
‘As an FBU member for over 30 years I was shocked and ashamed of the statement they [the FBU] issued.
‘I guarantee that would also be the case of vast majority of firefighters.
‘Stay strong and look after each other’.
This sentiment was backed up by another firefighter who tweeted:
‘I am not a FBU member but am a serving firefighter & I distance myself from what I regard as ill judged comment. I will defend and support safety of women and all society.
‘Still hundreds dying from C-19 and police colleagues doing their job. I fully support all my police colleagues.
‘To all police officers please understand the statement from the FBU is not the opinion of Fire Fighters, this is a union claiming that they are talking on behalf of all members.
‘They do not speak for me.
‘I for one am proud of the police and support you 100%’.
The FBU has been contacted for comment.
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