LONDON - Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with law enforcement officials on Monday after London police drew widespread criticism for their handling on Saturday to mark the murder of a 33-year-old woman.
The losses come as a proposed police bill that would give more power to control protests in Britain will be debated in Parliament this week and face renewed scrutiny from opposition lawmakers and rights groups.
An investigation was ordered into policing a guard in South London on Saturday night for Sarah Everard, 33, whose murder sparked national protests over misogyny and violence. The stunt was declared illegal due to coronavirus restrictions, an act condemned by human rights groups, and officers from the Metropolitan Police, London's main force, clashed with several participants.
Johnson is scheduled to meet on Monday with ministers, senior police officers and prosecutors to discuss steps to improve road safety for women and girls.
"Like everyone who saw it, I was very concerned about the footage from Clapham Common on Saturday night," said Johnson, referring to the open space in South London where the vigil was being held.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, he said he believed in Cressida Dick, the head of the Metropolitan Police, but he supported a review of what happened on Saturday night. The measures in the new police bill, he said, would increase the punishment for rapists and tackle domestic violence.
Priti Patel, the British cabinet minister who oversees police force, and Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, both called on Sunday for an independent review of police tactics in vigil.
Ms Dick said on Sunday that the review would be good for "public confidence," but rejected calls for her resignation and defended her officers, citing concerns over the coronavirus.
"A meeting that violates the law is a meeting that violates the law," he said. "Officers have to take action if people put themselves at enormous risk."
Ms. Everard, a marketing executive, disappeared near Clapham Common while walking home from a friend's house on the evening of March 3. His body was identified on Friday and a Metropolitan Police officer has been charged with his murder.
Since last week, women in England, shaken by Ms. Everard and later news of her murder, shared experiences of abuse and voiced lingering anger over violence against women at the hands of men, culminating in a vigil on Saturday night. .
Women's rights activists and lawmakers denounced the event's ruthless policy and called it particularly annoying given that the event had been staged to denounce violence against women, and that a police officer had been arrested in Ms. Everard.
"There were so many of them, it really felt like they were against us," Dania Al-Obeid, a woman who was arrested during the protests, told the BBC on Monday, adding that police had dragged her on the ground. "That's not necessary."
The impact of these events and the timing of a government bill that would give police more powers to control protests could lead to more riots. Protesters announced plans Monday morning for a demonstration outside government buildings at a later date.
Hundreds of people gathered on Sunday to march through central London, chanting "Kill the Bill."
Attention is now focused on the proposed Policing bill, which will be discussed in Parliament this week. The bill would impose harsher punishments for serious crimes and end a policy that frees prisoners after serving half of fixed sentences for some crimes, in addition to giving police protests wider authority.
Lawmakers from the opposition Labor Party said they would now vote against the bill because of concerns it would hinder protesters' rights.
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"This is not the time to rush through poorly thought out steps to impose disproportionate control on freedom of expression and the right to protest," said David Lammy, a Labor MP who is the party's justice spokesman, adding that The bill is “messy, which could result in a harsher sentence for destroying a statue than for assaulting a woman. "
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