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After Brexit vote, don't forget Jo Cox murder

June 28, 2016 at 10:44 am

With the debris from the Brexit fallout still causing political chaos in the country, it may be too easy to forget that less than two weeks ago a Labour MP was shot dead in broad daylight in the streets of a northern town by a man allegedly shouting “Britain first”.

Jo Cox was not a particularly leftist member of Labour. But she was strongly identified with the plight of  refugees. Racists saw her as “to blame” for bringing Muslims into the country. Wars in Muslims countries – many of them started by the West – have meant a rise in desperate people seeking shelter in a safer environment since the “War on Terror” era began in September 2001.

Cox, who was also a supporter of Labour Friends of Palestine, represented a humane trend which fascists in this country despite. It is alleged that Thomas Mair, who will stand trial in November, accused of committing the crime, is a fascist of long standing.

Police say witnesses heard him shout “Britain first” as he allegedly stabbed and shot Cox to death on 16 June. The press reported that he used his first court appearance to raise the slogan “death to traitors, freedom for Britain” – stated when he was asked to confirm his name.

I watched him appear at the Old Bailey on Thursday via video link. He did not repeat his initial sloganising, only confirming his name and quietly making notes throughout proceedings as the terrorism judge set a time table for the trial.

The case is being listing in the courts system under the terrorism protocol. So the charges of murder, grievous bodily harm, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and possession of an offensive weapon can be accurately described as terror-related. This is why the case is being heard in London instead of in West Yorkshire, where the assassination took place.

The Brexit referendum campaign has helped to increase polarisation in the country. Racists are now coming out of the woodwork more brazenly and there appears to be an initial spike in reports of racist incidents. Many of these are aimed at Muslims, but there was also hateful graffiti daubed on a Polish cultural centre in London.

We do not know what Thomas Mair’s views on the EU referendum were or are. According to some reporters speaking to his neighbours in the immediate wake of the crime, he did not express any strong views on the question. His family say he is not a racist.

But others have reported differently.

According to one press report, Mair was blacklisted by Asian taxi drivers in the town of Birstall, where Cox was killed. One said: “drivers have said they picked him up and he would give them racist abuse. They asked us to blacklist him, said they would rather not bother with his fare.”

According to the SPLC, a hate crime monitoring organization in the US, Mair also had had links with the National Alliance, neo-Nazi gang. In 1999 he allegedly bought a US army manual on how to make improvised explosives and firearms from them, the SPLC said in a blog posting that published the receipts.

Polling by the Conservative party’s Lord Ashcroft shows that that number one reason Leave voters cast their ballot the way they did was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK.” The number two-reason was “control over immigration”

Those giving the second reason have been fooled in the believing a false narrative: that “immigrants” are to blame for all or most of their problems.

There are dangerous times ahead for this country.

After Cox’s murder, some far-right groups and individuals took to social media to gloat. Some posted photos of Cox waxing a Palestinian flag as justification for the despicable crime.

The far-right candidate saying he will stand in the by-election that will be held to replace Cox claimed she “was was more interested in solidarity with Palestinian people than gang rape” – a common Islamophobic trope.

There needs to be a concerted fightback against such hatred, and it starts with all of us.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.