'It's been a difficult week': Diane Abbott thanks marchers who joined allies at anti-hate protest after Tory donor row

16 March 2024, 16:57 | Updated: 16 March 2024, 18:40

Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have led an anti-hate protest to the Home Office - as demonstrators march in support of Diane Abbott after she was targeted for abuse by a Tory donor.
Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have led an anti-hate protest to the Home Office - as demonstrators march in support of Diane Abbott after she was targeted for abuse by a Tory donor. Picture: Alamy

By Chay Quinn

Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have led an anti-hate protest to the Home Office - as demonstrators march in support of Diane Abbott after she was targeted for 'abuse' by a Tory donor.

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Loud cheers broke out as Labour MP John McDonnell, who was shadow chancellor under Jeremy Corbyn, told the crowd "I am here today in solidarity with my friend, my colleague, my comrade, Diane Abbott."

Read More: Tory donor who said Diane Abbott 'should be shot' gives 'further £5m' to party after he is reported to police

Tory donor Frank Hester is reported to have said the MP made him want "to hate all black women" and that she "should be shot".

Mr Corbyn also led those gathered in a chant of "no justice, no peace", before adding: "If the Labour party want to be perceived as an anti-racist party, there is one simple step that can be done today, and that is Sir Keir Starmer restoring the whip to Diane Abbott."

Corbyn and McDonnell
Loud cheers broke out as Labour MP John McDonnell, who was shadow chancellor under Jeremy Corbyn, told the crowd "I am here today in solidarity with my friend, my colleague, my comrade, Diane Abbott.". Picture: Alamy

Crowds gathered outside the Home Office to protest against the rise of racism and hatred and to support black Labour MP Diane Abbott.

Activists gathered in central London for the Stop The Hate national demonstration which included a rally and a march to Whitehall.

In the afternoon and under a large police presence, they held a booming dance party including pink smoke in the central strip of Whitehall in front of Downing Street between the Cenotaph and The Women of World War II memorial.

Other events are being held in Glasgow and Cardiff as part of the Stand Up To Racism campaign.

Ms Abbott thanked protestors after the march, saying they were there to "unite against all forms of racism.

"It's been a difficult week. It's not easy hearing about the things that have been said about me.

"But as many black people can testify, it's not just the racist incident that's hard to endure, it's the institutional, systemic and structural racism that follows it.

"This isn't about me. This is about the level of racism that exists today."

Referring to the Conservative Party, Ms Abbott criticised "extremists tearing apart Britain".

Frank Hester
Tory donor Frank Hester is reported to have said the MP made him want "to hate all black women" and that she "should be shot". Picture: Alamy

Banners declaring: "Racism is extremism"; "freedom is a constant struggle"; "refugees welcome"; "say no to Islamophobia"; and "stamp out antisemitism, yes to diversity" were held by the demonstrators.

The party suspended Ms Abbott 11 months ago for saying Irish, Jewish and Traveller people do not face racism "all their lives".

She withdrew her remarks the same day and apologised "for any anguish caused".

Earlier this week Ms Abbott, who currently sits as an independent MP, spoke out about racism in politics, a day after being denied a chance to take part in a Commons debate about a Tory donor's criticism of her.

Ms Abbott said she had been "upset" by the comments, but was "hardened to racist abuse".

Diane Abbott
Ms Abbott said she had been "upset" by the comments, but was "hardened to racist abuse". Picture: Alamy

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that Mr Hester had apologised and his "remorse should be accepted".

Trade unions, the Jewish Socialist Group along with other faith groups and grassroots campaigns were among supporters of Saturday's demonstration which the organisers said was part of a "mass campaign by a broad coalition of forces drawing in anti-racists everywhere".

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