Home Office sources have blasted ‘irresponsible’ Labour MP Diane Abbott for stoking ‘tensions’ after linking the shooting of Sasha Johnson to Black Lives Matter activism – despite police stressing there is no such evidence.
Ms Abbott, 67, had associated the shooting of Ms Johnson, 27, to her activism in a post on Twitter, despite an earlier Met Police statement that reiterated it was not a targeted attack.
Speaking today, a Home Office source said of Ms Abbott’s comments: ‘It is very irresponsible and risks increasing tensions in the community.’
The Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP was earlier accused of ‘inflaming racial tensions’ and challenged for not doing her ‘homework’ after appearing on LBC’s Cross Question, hosted by Iain Dale.
She later appeared on BBC’s Newsnight where she was challenged by Emily Maitlis for doubling down on her stance that the attack was related to Ms Johnson’s activism.
Today, police confirmed they are hunting ‘four young black men’, after the mother-of-two was shot in the head during an all-day party in Peckham in the early hours of Sunday morning. Commander Alison Heydari again stressed there was no evidence Ms Johnson was the victim of a ‘targeted attack’.
Speaking on LBC yesterday evening, Diane Abbott, 67, was asked if she was ‘inflaming racial divides’ over a tweet she posted on the shooting of Black Lives Matter activist, Sasha Johnson, who police and friends insist was not targeted because of her campaigning
Ms Abbott tweeted about the shooting of Sasha Johnson (pictured), writing: ‘Nobody should have to potentially pay with their life because they stood up for racial justice’
Series of statements sparked by Sasha Johnson shooting
- 03.00 Sunday, May 23 – A large police presence responds to reports of a shooting at an address in Peckham.
- 12.00 Sunday, May 23 – Met Police release first witness appeal after Sasha Johnson is shot.
- 17.01 Sunday, May 23 – Sasha’s Taking the Initiative Party releases statement on the attack, claiming it followed numerous death threats.
- 22.20 Sunday, May 23 – Met Police release second appeal, clarifying ‘there is nothing to suggest’ this was a ‘targeted attack’.
- 10.13 Monday May 24 – Labour MP Diane Abbott tweets that Sasha Johnson was targeted because she ‘stood up for racial justice’
- 20.00 Monday May 24, Diane Abbott is accused of ‘inflaming racial tensions’ by LBC host Iain Dale.
- 22.45 Monday May 24, Ms Abbott doubles down on her during BBC Newsnight interview and refutes claims she is stoking racial division.
- 07.00 Tuesday May 25, Scotland Yard reiterates there is no suggestion that Ms Johnson was the intended target of the attack.
On Saturday morning, Ms Abbott had tweeted: ‘Black activist Sasha Johnson is in hospital in critical condition after sustaining a gunshot wound to the head.
‘Nobody should have to potentially pay with their life because they stood up for racial justice #BlackLivesMatter.’
LBC Host Iain Dale pointed out that Ms Abbott had linked the shooting to racial justice, despite witnesses claiming otherwise and there being no evidence at this time that this was a targeted attack on the self-styled ‘Black Panther of Oxford’.
On Saturday morning, Ms Abbott posted a speculative tweet suggesting the Black Lives Matter activist was targeted because she ‘stood up for racial justice’.
This came despite an official Met Police statement more than 12 hours earlier, which stated: ‘While the investigation is at an early stage, there is nothing to suggest that the woman who was shot was the subject of a targeted attack or that she had received any credible threats against her prior to this incident.’
Her tweet sparked outrage online and was later the subject of broadcasters’ questioning.
Grilling Ms Abbott on LBC’s political debate programme yesterday evening, Iain Dale brought up her social media post which was ‘coming under a lot of fire’.
Dale said: ‘You’ve linked this shooting to racial justice, even witnesses suggest this was gangland killing.
‘Haven’t you actually inflamed racial divides by tweeting something when you haven’t done your homework?’
‘Just by plainly linking it to racial justice, you are creating a division there when you don’t know that’s true.’
Abbott denied the accusation and said: ‘I mean you didn’t see the commentary on this woman being shot in the head.
‘There was a huge amount of concern about it.
‘If you raise issues of race and are accused of inflaming tensions, that doesn’t get us anywhere fast.’
‘She [Sasha] is a Black activist. She was shot in the head and people were concerned as to why.
‘It may have been that she randomly took a bullet… we don’t know for certain’.
To which Dale replied: ‘Yes exactly, which is why you shouldn’t have tweeted what you did.’
LBC’s Iain Dale (above) grilled Ms Abbott on her social media post and suggested she hadn’t done her ‘homework’
Sasha Johnson, co-organiser of the Million People March, pictured during a demo in Notting Hill, London, has been shot in the head and is fighting for her life in what appears to be a drive-by shooting caused by a row between two rival gangs in Peckham
No evidence Sasha was the target, says Met
The Met has again denied that Sasha Johnson was the intended target of the shooting.
Commander Alison Heydari said: This was a shocking incident that has left a young woman with very serious injuries.
‘Our thoughts are with the family of Sasha Johnson who are being supported by specially trained officers.
‘A dedicated team of detectives are working tirelessly to identify the person – or people – responsible for the shooting.
‘They are making good progress but they need the public’s help.
‘From our enquiries so far, we have established that Sasha had been at a party at a house on Consort Road in Peckham early on Sunday morning.
‘Around 3am a group of four black males dressed in dark coloured clothing entered the garden of the property and discharged a firearm. They had left the scene before officers arrived.
‘We are aware of Sasha’s involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement in the UK and I understand the concern this will cause to some communities – however I wish to stress that at this time there is nothing to suggest Sasha was the victim of a targeted attack.
‘We are also not aware of any reports of threats made against her prior to this incident.
‘I want to take this opportunity to reassure you that we are doing everything possible to identify those responsible and to bring them to justice.
‘Tackling violent crime on the streets of London is a top priority for the Met, and the people of London have a vital role to play in that.
‘If you have any information about the events of Sunday morning we need you to contact police immediately by calling 101. You can also report information anonymously to Crimestoppers online on by calling 0800 555 111’.
Ms Abbotts’ tweet is locked, meaning only people she tags can respond, and has been liked more than 4,500 times.
In a later interview with Emily Maitlis on BBC’s Newsnight, Abbott doubled down on her answers and again refuted claims she was stoking racial division.
Referring to the original tweet, the BBC presenter questioned ‘facts that didn’t add up’.
And when Ms Maitlis pointed to the lack of connection between Johnson’s activism and the shooting, Ms Abbott interrupted her.
She said: ‘When a person of colour is attacked for raising issues to do with race that doesn’t take the debate further forward.
‘If people are inflamed about race in this country, you need to look at the underlying issues.’
Maitlis responds: ‘So Diane is saying you can make this connection because somewhere along the lines it was connected to race.’
Ms Abbott again denied this claim.
Social media users were also quick to question Ms Abbott’s speculative tweet.
Angela Lopes Garcia tweeted: ‘Does she actually have facts and knows what she is talking about?
‘This is quite concerning for a member of a political party. She is doing absolutely nothing but inflicting more hatred instead of uniting people.’
@WestHamMatters said: ‘Diane Abbott has once again attempted to create racial tension with a tweet.’
While @festa197 wrote: ‘Abbott will never turn down an opportunity to racebait and will never admit she is wrong.’
This latest fallout follows the attack on Sasha Johnson, who was shot in the head by a gang of four black men who opened fire in the garden of a Peckham all-day party.
Ms Johnson was shot in the head by a gang of four young black men who stormed into the garden of a Peckham all-day party and opened fire – but there is no evidence the BLM activist was the intended target, Scotland Yard said today.
One neighbour told MailOnline they heard ‘two shots’ and ‘screeching tyres’ at around 3am Sunday, as forensics teams comb the area in south-east London for bullet casings and the weapon.
Scotland Yard today quashed rumours that the shooting was a targeted hit on the BLM activist.
Commander Alison Heydari has made an appeal for anyone who knows the identity of the shooters to come forward and help police ‘bring them to justice’.
The self-styled ‘Black Panther of Oxford’, 27, who called for the police to be defunded after the murder of George Floyd in the US last summer, is fighting for her life in hospital following the attack in Peckham, south-east London at 3am on Sunday.
Speaking outside Scotland Yard today Commander Heydari said: ‘We have established that she was in a party in Peckham.
‘At about 3am a group of four black men dressed in dark clothing entered the garden of the property and discharged a firearm.
‘We’re aware of Sasha’s involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement and the concern this will cause some communities.
‘But at this time we have no information that suggests that she was subject to a targeted attack.
‘We’re also not aware of any threats to her life prior to this incident’.
Sasha Johnson from the Rhodes Must Fall campaign speaks at Parliament Square in London last July. She is in a critical condition in hospital today after being shot in the head at a house party. Met Commander Alison Heydari insists there is no evidence she was the target of the hit
Four black men, dressed in dark clothing, entered the garden and opened fire, hitting Sasha in the head, police have confirmed this morning
Sasha’s Taking the Initiative Party has refused to believe Met assurances alleged death threats weren’t credible as they described receiving emails and social media messages from people ‘celebrating Sasha’s attack, messages wishing she dies, calling her a racist, and wishing better luck to the shooter next time for not killing her’. They held a vigil in the park next to the South London hospital where she is in a critical condition with supporters questioning why she was the only one shot if she wasn’t the target.
In a lengthy statement first published on Instagram, the party said: ‘The irony is in the fact that the police have stated there is no clear evidence that Sasha was the target of the attack, and that there are no credible death threats made towards her; however, how have the police come to this conclusion without being able to speak to Sasha regarding the death threats and investigate?
‘Do the police know who the target of the attack was, in order to conclude that Sasha wasn’t? How does one manage to shoot someone in the head accidentally? Surely, to end up in hospital having sustained a bullet shot to the head, makes a death threat more credible.’
TTIP also slammed Imarn Ayton, founder of the UK Black Reformist Movement, for telling the BBC that the attack was as a result of gang crime rather than a hate crime or a targeted attack. The party claimed Ms Ayton is not a friend of Ms Johnson’s and ‘had no authority to give a statement on the incident’.
Ms Ayton had said Ms Johnson, famed for wearing black military uniform at protests including a stab-proof-style vest, was caught up in a dispute between two rival gangs – and was not shot because of her activism.
‘It was wrong place, wrong time. I do not believe she was the target’, she said.
Around 50 people held a vigil for Ms Johnson and said prayers under a bandstand in Ruskin Park, Lambeth as one friend said: ‘She is a light in the darkness and she continues to shine’ and added they had been ‘blessed’ by her smile as they chanted for her.
Online activist page Justice for Black Lives asked supporters to ‘show support for her recovery’ and ‘take a stand against senseless violence’ at the event, while photos showed supporters crying and embracing each other as they gathered outside.
One neighbour in south-east London earlier told MailOnline that she heard ‘two shots’ and then the sound of ‘screeching’ tyres at around 3am on Sunday. Forensics teams have sealed off the property and are searching the area for bullet casings and the weapon.
Ms Ayton told the BBC: ‘As far as we’re aware she [Sasha] was at a party and there was a rival gang that may have heard about a person being there that they didn’t feel comfortable with, or trusted, so they resorted to driving past and shooting into a garden. And one of those shots obviously hit Sasha Johnson. But I don’t believe she was the intended target’.
She added: ‘This incident is more related to rival gangs than to her activism’, adding she believed there was ‘some kind of dispute between two different groups’.
Sasha is in a critical condition in hospital after emergency surgery as police hunt for the gunman after the Met insisted there is nothing to suggest it was a targeted attack on her. Photographs of the crime scene show a large marquee and several gazebos were put up in the back garden for the party.
The lawn is still covered in discarded drinks bottles and what appears to be blue medical gloves and PPE.
A neighbour, who lives near the house, told MailOnline: ‘I heard two shots. There was about three seconds between each one and I heard a car screeching off.
‘A woman then screamed and shouted the word ‘help’. I was too frightened to look out the window. My husband is blind and he was really worried about what was going on too, he was almost having a panic attack. I knew they were gunshots straight away. It’s terrifying that a shooting can happen virtually on my doorstep.’
Police investigating the shooting of Sasha Johnson have recovered a mountain bike.
A local said: ‘I came out of my house about 8.30am on Sunday and the police had sealed off the road. There was a dark coloured mountain bike left on the street behind the police tape.
‘The officers then took it away. I don’t know what significance it holds.
‘The shooting followed an all day party at one of the houses by the railway arch. My daughter walked past it about 4pm on Saturday and apparently it continued until late on into the night. ‘I didn’t hear any shots or any shouting. The first I knew that something had happened was when I stepped out of my front door to go out.’
A vigil held in Ruskin Park, South London by friends and supporters of Sasha Johnson
Police have sealed off the property and put up metal shutters to block access to the front garden, where Sasha is most likely to have been hit by a bullet meant for someone else
A police officer is guarding the back garden, with what appears to be blue medical gloves and PPE, probably used by paramedics treating Miss Johnson, discarded on the lawn
Taking the Initiative Party has cast doubt on police claims as they described having received emails and social media messages ‘celebrating Sasha’s attack, messages wishing she dies, calling her a racist, and wishing better luck to the shooter next time for not killing her’
In a statement on Instagram, TTIP said: ‘It is with great sadness that we inform you that our own Sasha Johnson has been brutally attacked and sustained a gunshot wound to her head’
Sasha Johnson, co-organiser of the Million People March, pictured during a demo in Notting Hill, London, has been shot in the head and is fighting for her life in what appears to be a drive-by shooting caused by a row by two rival gangs in Peckham
The Metropolitan Police said initially they are investigating after a woman in her 20s was shot in Peckham, in the capital’s south-east, at 3am. It was later confirmed that the victim was Ms Johnson, 26. No arrests have been made
Snapchat footage emerged showing how the area was swamped by police and crowds outside the property in the aftermath of the shooting
Forensics officers have sealed off an area of the street outside a large Victorian property next to one of the area’s famous railway arches, with that section of Cors
Ms Johnson, a mother-of-two Ruskin College graduate who rose to prominence after organising BLM protests last summer, is said to be currently in intensive care and in a critical condition in a South London hospital following the attack.
The Taking the Initiative Party, which Ms Johnson founded, said she had previously received death threats as a result of her BLM campaigning.
In a statement, the TTIP wrote: ‘It is with great sadness that we inform you that our own Sasha Johnson has been brutally attacked and sustained a gunshot wound to her head.
‘She is currently in intensive care and in a critical condition. The attack happened in the early hours of this morning, following numerous death threats as a result of her activism.
‘Sasha has always been actively fighting for black people and the injustices that surround the black community, as well as being both a member of BLM and a member of Taking the Initiative Party’s Executive Leadership Committee.
‘Sasha is also a mother of 3 and a strong, powerful voice for our people and our community.
‘Let’s all come together and pray for Sasha, pray for her recovery and show our support to her family and loved ones. #prayforsashajohnson’.
As well as her activism, Ms Johnson has worked as a youth worker and cafe owner.
Police said the Peckham shooting occurred in the vicinity of a house where a party was taking place and that a number of people may have been in the area. Officers said there is ‘nothing to suggest’ that the woman shot there was the subject of a targeted attack.
BLM UK tweeted in solidarity with the activist on Sunday and said they would be holding a vigil outside the hospital in south London on Monday at 3pm.
Claudia Webbe, Labour MP for Leicester East, was among those who went online to express ‘solidarity’ with Ms Johnson.
Ms Webbe said: ‘We were all out last year for Black Lives Matter. I only know her as an activist on these issues of Black Lives Matter. I support Black Lives Matter and therefore support what she was doing.
‘As a member of Parliament I stand in full solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and I stand with her work in the Black Lives Matter movement.’