Sarah Everard: Woman arrested at vigil says she was ‘terrified’ as officer ‘said he had a baton’
A woman whose image went viral after being arrested at the Sarah Everard vigil on Saturday said she was "terrified" as a police officer leading her away warned he had a baton.
Patsy Stevenson was pictured being taken away from Clapham Common’s bandstand in south London on Saturday night after a vigil for the murdered 33-year-old turned violent.
Ms Stevenson told Sky News she went to mourn Ms Everard, whose body was found in Kent woodland last week after going missing from near Clapham Common, and to be among other women who feel their safety needs to be talked about.
But she said it quickly turned nasty when lots of police officers came on to the bandstand, pushing women into the barriers and she was then arrested. She was among three women and a man to be arrested.
She told Sky News: "We were very scared about what was going to happen.
"I just stood there and a police officer was pulling my arm, trying to get my name and then I was tackled to the ground.
"As I was being taken away, behind me one of the officers that was holding on to me was saying ‘I’ve got my hand on my baton, I’ve got my hand on my baton’ to one of the other officers.
"I thought this was terrifying because we’re about to walk into a crowd of people and I don’t know whether that crowd are going to go against what’s going on and me be arrested."
Ms Stevenson said she did not know what to do, having never been in that kind of a situation before, and another woman told her not to give police her name so she did not.
She said she shouted out to the crowd, "he’s got his hand on his baton, be careful" as she was worried for the safety of others.
"Then they said ‘she’s antagonising the crowd please move her back’," Ms Stevenson added.
"I wasn’t trying to antagonise anyone, I was just trying to make sure everyone was safe.
"I was terrified but then I looked up at the press and I had a small thought that if this gets out I might be interviewed and in that moment the fear didn’t matter to me."
She added that the vigil "turned out the opposite to what we wanted".
Campaign group Reclaim These Streets had tried to work with the police to organise an official vigil with stewards and officers on Clapham Common but it was cancelled as police said it was a coronavirus risk.
Ms Stevenson said she went to the vigil anyway as she wanted to be there in solidarity with Ms Everard and women who have to deal with feeling unsafe on the street.
"No one intended this, it was meant to be a vigil, all we wanted to do was pay our respects", she added.
"I accidentally went viral, I didn’t want this to happen, this happened like a whirlwind.
"I’ve been thrown into the public eye and the only way I can make this not in vain is to not make it political, not against the police, it’s just about the safety of women and we need to talk about it."
An investigation into the way police dealt with the vigil has started as Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick backed her officers and said they needed to make a very difficult judgment during the pandemic, where gatherings are unlawful.
There have been calls for Dame Cressida to resign over the police’s handling of the vigil but Anna Birley from Reclaim These Streets said that would do nothing to advance female equality.
Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Priti Patel and policing minister Kit Malthouse have also refused to heed calls for her to step down.