London: Met Police slammed for letting huge crowds of football fans gather

People have been quick to point out the difference in policing the Scotland fans (left) with Sarah Everard mourners (right) (Picture: Reuters/Triangle News)

Police have been criticised for letting thousands of football fans party on the streets despite the pandemic.

Scenes of Scotland supporters gathering en masse in Leicester Square have been contrasted with the heavy-handed approach seen at other events including the vigil held in memory of Sarah Everard in March.

Angry campaigners have been quick to point out the differences in policing the two sets of crowds, with the Met favouring a much more hands-off approach last night.

Lockdown rules have been significantly relaxed in the three months between the events but gatherings of more than 30 are still banned and cases are higher now than they were in March.

Around 20,000 fans are thought to have made the trip to London and they were mostly left to celebrate unchecked, despite the Met putting a dispersal order in place.

Pictures of supporters laughing and joking around with officers have also emerged, prompting fury among those who were prevented from attending the vigil in Clapham Common on March 13.

Police at the time said it was necessary to use force due to the public health emergency, while dozens of protests and gatherings have been similarly shut down since the pandemic began.

But the huge crowd of Scotland fans were allowed to dance, sing and throw beer over each other in very close proximity – despite Covid cases rising rapidly again on both sides of the border.

Soccer Football - Euro 2020 - Fans gather for England v Scotland - London, Britain - June 18, 2021 Scotland fans celebrate in London after the match REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Crowds enjoyed a much more hands-off approach from police (Picture: Reuters)
Scotland fans gathered in the square throughout the day (Picture: Shutterstock)
Police arrested 30 people and dispersed crowds at 12.45am

Lockdown rules in place currently ban outdoor gatherings of more than 30 people, while theatres, cinemas and gig venues are having to operate on reduced capacity to keep people apart.

Last week the restrictions were extended for another four weeks due to spiralling cases of the Delta variant, first discovered in India.

At 10,476, the number of new infections reported yesterday is nearly double what it was when Ms Everard’s vigil was held.

Thousands of mourners tried to pay their respects to the marketing executive, who disappeared while walking home from a friend’s house, but were met by a show of force from police.

Officers broke up the crowds using their batons and arrested six women in a response that was heavily criticised at the time.

Six people were arrested at the vigil for Sarah Everard, which was shut down by officers (Picture: Getty Images)

The vigil was held when the country was still in full lockdown, with all gatherings including protests banned. An inquiry later found officers had ‘acted appropriately.’

A clip of the huge crowds in the square yesterday has been shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media, prompting a flurry of comments.

One person said: ‘The vigil for Sarah Everard was broken up by police tackling women to the ground who paid their respects peacefully. But this is a-ok? REALLY?!’

Another said: ‘Sarah Everard’s vigil was brutally shut down. Pride is cancelled. Carnival is cancelled. My heart hurts.’

‘Did I miss the pictures of police dragging people away, like they did at the Sarah Everard vigil?’, a third person said after viewing the footage.

Officers were seen laughing and joking with the crowds (Picture: Triangle News)

Others complained that the fans were allowed to celebrate but weddings still have to operate under strict restrictions including a ‘no dancing’ rule.

Pub-goers had been warned not to sing or chant while watching the game with landlords claiming they’d been threatened with large fines if they didn’t take action against those breaking the rules.

Police arrested 30 fans during the course of the evening but mostly for offences including being drunk and disorderly and assaulting police.

Officers eventually cleared the square at 12.45am, during which time the majority of fans had already gone home.

The Met said its officers were ‘on the scene’ and ‘engaging with the crowd’ throughout the day.

A tweet sent just before the match kicked off said: ‘Police are continuing to engage with the crowd in Leicester Sq. to remind them the pandemic is still ongoing and of the need to social distance to keep themselves and others safe.’

Metro.co.uk has contacted the force for further comment.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

For more stories like this, check our news page.

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