LONDON — The mayor of London and the British cabinet minister responsible for policing both called on Sunday for an independent investigation into how the city’s main police force broke up a vigil for Sarah Everard, the 33-year-old marketing executive whose killing has sparked a reckoning over violence against women, after images of officers clashing with women at the event prompted a widespread outcry.
The mayor, Sadiq Khan, said that “scenes arising from the policing of the vigil,” which had been banned under coronavirus restrictions, “were completely unacceptable,” and that he was “not satisfied” with explanations from the two top officers in the force, the Metropolitan Police.
A spokesman for the Home Office, the government department that oversees policing, confirmed on Sunday that Priti Patel, the home secretary, had asked the Inspectorate of Constabulary, a government body that assesses police forces, for a report into what happened at the vigil.
Mr. Khan said in a statement that he had sought a full inquiry from the same body, and that he was also asking another regulator, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, to investigate the actions of officers at the vigil.
The vigil, at Clapham Common in South London on Saturday evening, led to four arrests that police said were for public order offenses and breach of health regulations.
Critics, who included women’s rights activists and lawmakers across the spectrum, called the policing heavy-handed and particularly upsetting at what became a rally against violence for women, especially given that a Metropolitan Police officer has been charged with kidnapping and murdering Ms. Everard, who disappeared while walking home from a friend’s house in Clapham on March 3.
Mr. Khan said that the police had assured him last week that the vigil would be policed sensitively, and that he had met on Sunday with the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, and her deputy, Stephen House, to demand an explanation. “I am not satisfied with the explanation they have provided,” he added.
In a statement overnight, Helen Ball, an assistant commissioner for the Metropolitan Police, said that officers on the ground were “faced with a difficult decision” in the evening after hundreds of people “packed tightly together, posing a very real risk of easily transmitting Covid-19.”
“Police must act for people’s safety, this is the only responsible thing to do. The pandemic is not over and gatherings of people from right across London and beyond, are still not safe,” she said, adding, “We accept that the actions of our officers have been questioned.”