A university has appeared to defend one of its professors after a petition was launched against her for saying "white lives don't matter".
Dr Priyamvada Gopal, a professor in colonial and postcolonial literature at Cambridge University, has faced a stream of abuse after posting a series of tweets on Tuesday.
Gopal tweeted: “I’ll say it again. White Lives Don’t Matter. As white lives”, followed by “Abolish whiteness" in a later tweet.
Abolish whiteness— Priyamvada Gopal (@PriyamvadaGopal) June 23, 2020
Her comments triggered a torrent of racial and personal attacks, leading Cambridge to defend Gopal's right to express her "own lawful opinions".
Without referencing the professor directly, the university tweeted: “The University defends the right of its academics to express their own lawful opinions which others might find controversial and deplores in the strongest terms abuse and personal attacks.
"These attacks are totally unacceptable and must cease”.
The University defends the right of its academics to express their own lawful opinions which others might find controversial and deplores in the strongest terms abuse and personal attacks. These attacks are totally unacceptable and must cease.— Cambridge University (@Cambridge_Uni) June 24, 2020
A petition against Gopal has been launched on Change.org and has so far gained more than 13,000 signatures.
It says the statements “must not be tolerated by Cambridge University leadership”.
"Cambridge must move to immediately discontinue their relationship with Ms Gopal in the best interest of all students and the community at large”, it adds.
Dr Gopal has since posted examples of the abuse she has been subjected to, with other academics and high-profile celebrities defending her.
Dr Charlotte Lydia Riley, a prominent historian and author, tweeted: “These messages, that Priyamvada Gopal is tweeting, are horrific -- and a clear example of the price that people of colour, especially women of colour, pay for having their voices heard in British society, which is structurally and systemically racist. Solidarity.”
Professor Kate Williams, another historian and author, said: “The abuse generated to Priyamvada Gopal recently is terrible - death threats and disgusting words. And still a petition is on change demanding that she’s fired - inciting harassment and hate against her. Why are you allowing this petition on your platform, Change?”
Comedian Nish Kumar said: “Awful seeing the hard right mob descend on Priyamvada Gopal -she is one of the best and brightest around. Solidarity.”
In response to the petition, Dr Gopal said in a separate tweet: “I'm not personally especially fussed though my friends are: those who wish to report the "petition to Cambridge" to fire me can be reported to Change.org for harassment.
“I'm not posting the link here but if you wish to do so, it can be found fairly easily.”
Awful seeing the hard right mob descend on @PriyamvadaGopal - she is one of the best and brightest around. Solidarity.— Nish Kumar (@MrNishKumar) June 24, 2020
In recent days, far-right groups have counter-protested the Black Lives Matter movement, often using “White Lives Matter” or “All Lives Matter” as counter-slogans.
On Monday a banner saying ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ was flown over the Etihad stadium in Manchester.
The banner has been strongly condemned by Burnley Football Club, who have said those involved will be banned for life from their matches.
Yahoo News UK has contacted Change.org for comment.