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Justin Welby urges repentance over 'sin of male violence' following Sarah Everard case

by Will Maule

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has urged repentance for attitudes that "perpetuate and condone" the sin of male violence.

In a statement released in the aftermath of the horrific kidnapping and death of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, Welby acknowledged the personal stories of many women who have experienced harassment and assault at the hands of men. 

“Testimony after testimony from women over recent days have shown us something we have known and ignored for far too long: the profound impact of the sin of male violence, intimidation, harassment, sexism and abuse carried out against women," he said. "It is these sins - and the culture that perpetuates and condones them - that need our urgent repentance, our fervent prayer, and our resolute action as men."

The death sparked gatherings in London at the weekend, with thousands descending on Clapham Common to pay tribute to Everard and speak out about the issue of violence against women. 

The event began peacefully, with a silent vigil and a visit from the Duchess of Cambridge. People were seen laying flowers and holding signs that read "End Violence Against Women” and “She Was Only Walking Home.” However, later in the evening, the event became more crowded, and several speeches were made. 

At this point, given that the event had been declared not allowed during a court challenge earlier in the day due to Covid-19 restrictions, the Metropolitan Police decided to step in and disperse some of the crowd. 

Many were appalled after seeing images of police officers pinning women to the ground. 

"The scenes from Clapham Common are unacceptable," tweeted the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. "The police have a responsibility to enforce Covid laws but from images I've seen it's clear the response was at times neither appropriate nor proportionate. I'm contact with the Commissioner & urgently seeking an explanation." 

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she had asked the Metropolitan Police "for a full report on what happened", calling the scenes emerging from the vigil "upsetting".

The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, has resisted calls to resign over the incident.

"If it had been lawful, I'd have been there," Dame Cressida said in a statement, noting that the police have to make "really difficult calls".

"Quite rightly, as far as I can see, my team felt that this is now an unlawful gathering which poses a considerable risk to people's health," she said.

"I don't think anybody who was not in the operation can actually pass a detailed comment on the rightness and wrongness...This is fiendishly difficult policing."

She added: "What has happened makes me more determined, not less, to lead my organisation."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “deeply concerned” by the footage but says he has confidence in the Metropolitan Police's chief. 

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