by Christopher iCha and Tariqah Shakir-Muhammad
LONDON—In the aftermath of the shooting of activist Sasha Johnson, arrests have been made but the young, Black woman continues fighting for her life. Ms. Johnson, a prominent leader of Britain’s first Black-led political party, was shot in the early hours of May 23, in South London.
A 27-year-old Oxford graduate, Ms. Johnson, executive leadership member of the Taking the Initiative Party (TTIP), community activist, and mother of three, sustained a non-fatal gunshot wound to her head.
She’s currently in critical care at Kings College Hospital in nearby Camberwell after having undergone an operation and is in recovery. It is too early to know whether she has suffered any permanent damage.
The community is demanding answers as to why the young, bright leader was shot. Five suspects between the ages of 17 and 28 are currently in custody on charges of attempted murder. London’s Metropolitan Police (Met) force stated that no threats were made prior to the incident.
Ms. Johnson, was a shining star in the fight for systemic change and the liberation of Black people in the UK. She rose to prominence in the UK’s Black Lives Matter movement helping organize the 2020 protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in police custody in the U.S.
She became the de facto “poster-girl” for Black liberation in the UK, and as a result of an uncompromising stance, she had received numerous death threats, a fact she made clear in the past.
The Metropolitan police issued an appeal for witnesses after being called to reports of gunshots in Peckham, south-east London, before 3 a.m., where Ms. Johnson was found. The shooting is believed to have occurred in the vicinity of a birthday party, attended by around 30 people, which was held in the back garden of the house, in Consort Road.
Reports stated after four men managed to force their way in, a scuffle then ensued, where one man suffered minor knife injuries.
While police are stating that Ms. Johnson was an unintended victim and that the shooting was not linked to her activism, supporters argue it is too soon to come to that conclusion.
Commander Alison Heydari, of the Met, said in a press release: “This was a shocking incident that has left a young woman with very serious injuries. Our thoughts are with the family of Sasha Johnson who are being supported by specially trained officers. A dedicated team of detectives are working tirelessly to identify the person—or people—responsible for the shooting.
“We are aware of Sasha’s involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement in the UK and I understand the concern this will cause to some communities; however, I wish to stress that at this time there is nothing to suggest Sasha was the victim of a targeted attack. We are also not aware of any reports of threats made against her prior to this incident,” the statement read.
Police say that they are unaware of any previous death threats made on the young woman’s life, and that members of the community should avoid engaging any speculation on the motive behind this incident.
As the tragic incident unfolded it has also laid bare the firestorm levels of abuse that community activists and freedom fighters endure. Following the shooting, social and mainstream media saw increased floods of racist, hateful responses, posted from right wing nationalists. So shocking were some of the responses, that many online news outlets blocked their own audience’s ability to engage.
Racism in the UK, recently dismissed in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ill-fated commissioned “Race Report,” that claimed Britain is no longer racist, is now palpable in all too many sickening online diatribes since the shooting of Ms. Johnson.
However, sentiments and well-wishes for Ms. Johnson’s recovery were also expressed across social media.
On Twitter, Black Lives Matter UK wrote, “BLMUK expresses our shock and solidarity over the shooting of Sasha Johnson. A young mother and fearless political campaigner who was at the forefront of many BLM protests last summer.”
Alexandra Anderson Munns wrote on Facebook, “I am so sorry to hear of the targeted attack of Sasha. It’s devastating to hear the disrespect and hate being thrown at her and her family. May she recover fully.”
Frank Chiller wrote on Facebook, “It sickens me the hate I saw in the comments. This attack needs to be investigated properly and no matter what happened, there needs to be the same energy towards gun crime in our communities as there is to police brutality. Get well Sasha.”
Linda Robson wrote, “God bless Sasha and her family through this terrible time. Courage and tenacity against racism is a quality she has and while she heals from her wounds, we must continue to stand in her place.”
Supporters have also held vigils and a fundraiser to support Ms. Johnson and her children.
“We are praying for our sister’s full recovery. We pray that Almighty Allah (God) will heal her from the crown of her head to the sole of her feet, such that no ailment is left behind, if it is His will. I ask all of us reading these words to earnestly engage in prayer for the betterment of our sister’s condition and for the comfort of her family and loved ones,” Student Minister Abdul Hakeem Muhammad, European Region Representative of the Nation of Islam, told The Final Call.
Friends and family from the community held a vigil in a nearby park as a show of solidarity and support, and to pray for Ms. Johnson’s speedy recovery. Pan African spiritual groups beat drums, burned incense and broadcast their call for justice. Hand-made banners with words of support have been placed outside Kings College Hospital.
Longtime activist Lee Jasper told The Final Call that Ms. Johnson was a prominent figure in activism for Black liberation. Mr. Jasper is the former deputy mayor of London and chair of Lambeth Youth Safety Forum.
“She came on board on the Black Lives Matter movement; she was incredibly vocal in condemning the systematic racism. … She was working with (TTIP) really to formulate a Black political response on a local level,” he said.
“She was working hard as part of that team. It’s really tragically ironic she should find herself now being the victim what very much looks like intro-community gang violence through her attendance at an end-of-lockdown party. The suggestion is that she was the unintended victim of this violence, merely at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Mr. Jasper noted that if Ms. Johnson was a victim of intro-community violence it shows an ongoing problem that needs to be carefully addressed. “If Black lives matter, then all Black lives matter,” he continued.
“We’ll await the future outcome of police investigations. … The response throughout the community has been absolutely huge. We pray for her recovery and await every day for the news of her current condition.”
TTIP continues demanding answers as to why the freedom fighter was the victim of the type of crime that is relatively rare in the country—a shooting.
The organization released a statement that read in part: “regardless of whether she was the ‘intended’ victim, she clearly was still the victim. We believe that the police’s statement regarding Sasha not being the intended victim, is an attempt to pacify the hundreds of thousands of people around the world that are infuriated by this attack.”
The group argues the attack was too precise to be accidental and that she may have been the target. The group also stated that Ms. Johnson’s car was vandalized before the attack with nothing but her megaphone stolen. She has also been the target of numerous death threats, reports the Washington Post.