The far-right are trying to use Lee Rigby's murder to discredit Black Lives Matter protesters

Sirena Bergman@SirenaBergman
Tuesday 02 June 2020 12:00
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(Getty/indy100)

As Black Lives Matter protests rage on across the world following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers, it was only a matter of time before the far-right started hijacking the tragedy for their own gain.

Barely a day after Floyd's murder, the rallying cry of "all lives matter" (aka: no, we will not allow for a single day of highlighting systemic racism) got so loud it began trending. Predictably, no amount of reiterating that this isn't about all lives would make it stop.

Now that protests have spread across the Atlantic and people in the UK have been taking to the the streets to express solidarity with American demonstrators fighting police brutality, of course the, errr, "detractors" are also coming out in force.

So much so, that "Lee Rigby" is now trending on Twitter.

Who is Lee Rigby?

Rigby was a British soldier who was murdered on 22 May 2013 while off duty and walking in southeast London by two men who stabbed him using knives and a cleaver.

His attackers had converted to Islam, and one was heard saying Rigby had been murdered because "Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers". The crime was condemned by Muslim leaders across the UK.

The incredibly high profile case stoked racial tensions, and coincided with an increase in Islamophobic sentiment in the UK. In 2015, The Independent reported a rise in hate crimes, with offences involving religious hatred soaring by 45 per cent and race hate crime by 4 per cent in the wake of the murder.

Why are people talking about him?

Home affairs and security correspondent Lizzie Dearden, explains that Rigby's murder fed into far-right claims that terror attacks are part of a wider threat posed by Muslims and people of colour.

She says:

They don't just see Lee Rigby as an Islamist terror attack, they see it in a wider context of black men murdering white people. Hence the comparison with the US protests, which are about white police officers killing black people.

Indeed, there have been thousands of tweets from people trying to liken the two scenarios, asking why we're not protesting about Rigby's murder instead of George Floyd's, suggesting some sort of absurd equivalency between the two cases.

Here's why they're completely wrong

Firstly, as many have pointed out, there were protests following Rigby's murder.

Such was the outcry that Rigby's family actually spoke out against it at the time, in a statement which said:

We would like to emphasise that Lee would not want people to use his name as an excuse to carry out attacks against others. We would not wish any other families to go through this harrowing experience and appeal to everyone to keep calm and show their respect in a peaceful manner.

The Guardian reported at the time that the far-right was preparing "what could be their biggest mass mobilisation in years", including dozens of protests planned by the English Defence Leage (EDL) and British National Party (BNP) rallies.

Rigby's murderers were brought to justice

The protests following Floyd's death were in large part to try and get justice for him. While the police officer responsible is being charged, many are angry that the charges are third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, as opposed to first-degree murder which carries a sentence of life imprisonment.

It also represents a number of systematic issues: police brutality, racial stereotyping and a lack of accountability for law enforcement. These are ongoing societal issues which cost lives, and need to be addressed. Rigby did not die because he was white.

Rigby's name is being used to support racist views

Many people are pointing out that this is the opposite of honouring his life.

In short, comparisons between the cases of Lee Rigby and George Floyd are racist, wrong and offensive to everyone involved.

Someone please just make them stop.

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