Members’ Report: February/March 2021

Apr 6, 2021 | Members Report

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Following last month’s AGM, I’d like to say well done to everyone who put themselves forward for a position. Congratulations to our new Executive Committee and thank you again to all the outgoing committee members who worked so hard to ensure Streatham once more elected a Labour MP. I look forwards to working with all of you to advance the needs of our community and deliver a Labour Government.

With the London elections almost upon us there’s no time to lose. This morning Sadiq Khan launched his manifesto to make London a greener and fairer city in the wake of the pandemic. Please join us for the official Streatham Labour campaign launch at 6:30pm this Wednesday (8th of April) and for Labour’s National Day of Action on the 17th April, in just over a week’s time. Let’s make sure London re-elects a Labour Mayor and also make sure we elect our excellent Labour Assembly candidate, Marina Ahmad, too.

It’s been a busy couple of months in Parliament and locally. The tragic murder of Sarah Everard has shaken our community to the core, as did the subsequent handling of the Clapham Common vigil intended to remember Sarah and the far too many other women lost to violence. This whole episode only offers further proof of the desperate need for a wide-ranging conversation about the deeper social causes and political failings that are allowing violence against women to continue unabated.

There have also been a number of important Bills before Parliament, though none more controversial than the Policing, Crime, Court & Sentencing Bill, more accurately dubbed the Police Crackdown Bill by campaigners. You can read about all of these things (and more) in my latest report below.

AMM-Report-Feb-Mar-2021

Our community has been deeply disturbed by the abduction of Sarah Everard. In response to Sarah’s disappearance, thousands of women planned to hold a peaceful, socially distanced vigil in Clapham Common Park to remember her and the thousands of women who have been victims of male violence.

The organisers of this event, Reclaim the Streets, had secured the support of Lambeth Council and local police to hold a covid-secure event that would allow attendees to safely pay their respects. Unfortunately, just a day before the date, the Met Police decided to pull their support and Reclaim the Streets were forced to cancel the event, even though it was clear that hundreds of women would still attend.

This reflects a troubling situation where the Government has left police to arbitrate over whether or not protests should go ahead under the Coronavirus Act without explicitly giving them the power to put a blanket ban on protests during the pandemic.

The women who were present at the vigil came to pay their respects to Sarah and, in many cases, to process their own past trauma and raise their voices about ongoing gender violence. The vigil took place in an open-air space, with every effort made to keep a social distance and a majority of those in attendance wearing face masks. In spite of this, the police decided to adopt a heavy-handed approach towards attendees which resulted in the shocking scenes of police brutality against mourning women.

Whilst I accept that there is a balance to be struck between public safety and public assembly during a pandemic, the police’s handling of this event just left everyone less safe. The explanation I got from the officer in charge when I spoke to them on the scene about their handling was, “they started giving left-wing speeches” and “criticising the police”. The police exist to keep the peace and keep us safe, not to police what we say and think.

The way this event was handled has quite clearly eroded public confidence in the police in our area on top of already strained relations. I have been vocal in my disapproval of the police response and the Government’s ongoing attempt to crack down on the right to protest.

Sadly, the report into the handling of the vigil – which justified heavy-handed police tactics as appropriate – will only heighten the impression that the police are not listening to women or respecting the right to protest. The police exist to keep the peace and keep us safe. The way the vigil was handled did neither of these things.

If you have any questions about the contents of this month’s report or anything else related to the work I’m doing as MP, please get in touch in the usual way: bell.ribeiroaddy.mp@parliament.uk