A Labour MP has been forced to close her constituency office after escalating racist threats towards her and her staff since she spoke out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Dawn Butler, a former youth minister and the first black woman to speak at the dispatch box in parliament, said racism, death threats and attacks on her office and staff meant she had no option but to close her high street premises in Willesden, north London.
The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, said the abuse she had received was appalling and she had his full support. Other MPs said they had deep concerns about attempts to silence her through intimidation.
In a letter to constituents, Butler, who served as the shadow equalities minister under Jeremy Corbyn, said bricks had been hurled through her office windows.
“I continue to receive on an almost daily basis threats of violence and death threats,” she wrote.
“My staff have been attacked in the office, verbally assaulted coming and going from work, bricks have been thrown through the windows and the frontage has been smashed.
I have spoken to @DawnButlerBrent to offer the Labour Party's full support and solidarity.— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) July 9, 2020
The racist abuse that Dawn and her staff have suffered is appalling.
Dawn’s voice is vital. The racism that our Black MPs face has no place in our society.
“I have had to work extensively with police and security staff to simply try and create a safe working environment for my employees. Many of these incidents were not made public in order to not encourage copycat attacks.”
In 2018 windows at the front of the office were smashed, and more recently she received hate messages over social media, as reported by the Guardian in June.
One message said: “There will come a time when you can’t breath[e], and we will all be happy,” while another said: “Come the revolution you will be one of the first.”
Butler intends to hold surgeries at local libraries and the civic centre where, she said, it would be easier to maintain social distancing. She also said the rent on her office was becoming more expensive.
Starmer said: “The racist abuse that Dawn and her staff have suffered is appalling. Dawn’s voice is vital. The racism that our black MPs face has no place in our society.”
She was also supported by the Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat. He tweeted: “Whoever is trying to silence Dawn Butler is threatening us all. We need to defend everyone’s freedom of speech and their right to choose who represents them. We cannot ignore this and see our democracy suffer.”