LONDON, United Kingdom, June 17 – Tearful mourners laid flowers outside the British parliament Thursday in memory of pro-EU lawmaker Jo Cox, hours after she was killed in a shock attack at a meeting with constituents.
Dozens of people gathered next to a large picture of the 41-year-old former charity worker, who had campaigned in favour of Britain’s membership of the European Union ahead of next week’s Brexit vote.
“What’s happened is beyond appalling. We are here in silent memory of her loss,” said Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Cox’s centre-left Labour party, as rain began to fall.
“This is a shocking occasion and I hope everybody realises hatred will never solve problems. Only people coming together will solve problems,” he said.
Corbyn was flanked by fellow members of the Labour party, many of them shaking and tearful, as they lit candles and one by one laid them beside the photograph of a smiling Cox.
“We are suspending all campaigning activities until the weekend as a mark of respect for her,” Corbyn said, referring to the tense run-up to Britain’s EU membership referendum on June 23.
Mourners left heaps of flowers in the lawmaker’s memory, who was the first British MP to be killed in office since Ian Gow was killed by a car bomb planted by the Irish Republican Army in 1990.
She was left bleeding on the pavement after reportedly being shot and stabbed in the village of Birstall in northern England, according to witnesses quoted by media.
‘United against hatred’
Fatima Ibrahim, a 23-year-old campaigner with human rights group Avaaz, which helped organise the vigil, told AFP she was “devastated”.
“She was a fearless campaigner, and a voice for the voiceless. We feel shaken by her loss, but committed to meeting the hatred that killed her with love.”
“We feel shaken by her loss,” she said.
Cox worked for charity group Oxfam before becoming a lawmaker in 2015, and several at the vigil recalled her tireless campaigning to help refugees from Syria.
Mike, a 55-year-old who works in the charity sector who did not want to give his surname, described Cox as “Someone who was utterly dedicated to the ideals of peace, love, justice on a global scale as well as in the UK.”
“It is shocking. This kind of thing does not happen,” Mike said.
Activists set up a white placard reading “We carry the banner of love for Jo” and invited others to add messages to it in coloured pens.
Tributes included “you can’t kill democracy” and “Thank you for all you did for Syria, for humanity. We will united against hatred.”
Another message listed Britain’s main political parties, and insisted that for one day at least the country was not divided by the two sides of the EU referendum.
“We are not Remain, Leave, Tory, Labour or Lib Dem tonight. We are Britons with a belief in parliament and democracy,” the message read.
In Birstall, a village of around 16,000 residents where eyewitnesses told British media they saw her being gunned down, mourners laid flowers at the foot of a statue.
Hundreds also gathered to pray at the local St Peter’s church.