Campaigners say: The attempted destruction of Claudia Webbe and other high profile black women must stop!
A Campaign has been launched by community led, grassroots organisations to show solidarity and support for Claudia Webbe ahead of her sentencing this week. Ms Webbe was convicted on 14th October for Harassment. She will be sentenced on Thursday 4th November.
Ms Webb reacted with a statement saying,
“The judge had a choice to believe someone who happened to be white or me. Despite my many years of public service the judge chose to believe my accuser,” she said on the day of her conviction.
She is not alone in her concerns about the underlying references to racial injustice and the ‘bringing down of black women’ as described by a new campaign set up to support Claudia and change the bias narrative that is – in their opinion – designed to destroy her career and her personal reputation as a high-profile black female politician.
Claudia Webbe is a British politician who has served as a Member of Parliament for Leicester East since 2019. Born in Leicester, she was a councillor in the London Borough of Islington until her resignation in March 2019, having served as its cabinet member for environment and transport.
The MP was accused of threatening so-called ‘love rival’ Michelle Merrit, who had allegedly been pursuing a relationship with Ms Webb’s partner. A serious accusation was made that Ms Webbe threatened Ms Merrit with acid. An accusation Claudia Webbe vehemently denies. However, despite her denial and good standing as a senior politician, despite there being no evidence to support those accusations, despite the fact audio recordings played in court did not contain such threats and Ms Webbe is instead heard repeatedly telling the woman to leave her relationship alone.
Despite this, Judge Goldspring decided to convict the long-standing politician, saying he didn’t believe her. In addition, the tabloids used the acid threat as an opening line and Ms Webbe was suspended by the labour party.
"This is not justice; rather, this case is an example of someone being discredited, dehumanised, and presented for us to subscribe to the angry black woman, who is aggressively charged and ready to kill someone for a man. It's disturbing, It’s Claudia today, it could be you or your loved ones tomorrow! We need to stand up to this injustice”.
The conviction has angered many people from local African, Caribbean, and South Asian communities who have come together to form the group #friends4claudia after what they describe as an unjust sentence, based on a conversation that has been blown out of all proportion. And a situation that they describe as political and ‘dangerous’, the group aims to raise awareness about racial injustice for all black women, and say this current case is an example of how black women are portrayed as angry, territorial and aggressive to the point that even Claudia’s public status was not enough to impact on that stereotype. Instead, she was convicted solely on the word of her ‘victim’, a white woman.
The campaign leader Faith Gakanje- Ajala said;
“This is reminiscent of how black people and black women in particular, are expected to dumb themselves down and be submissive to white women, Claudia has never met this woman, there was no evidence to support the claims about acid threats, yet the media ran with this line anyway. As though to make a point that even an educated, high profile black woman is a physical threat on the streets. It is disgusting that the judicial system and the media have been allowed to do this. It feels like a deliberate attempt to bring down yet another black woman. We are concerned too, that Claudia is being treated so disproportionately because she is a Corbynite, and there are people who want to destroy her career. She has had no support from the Labour Party, instead she was immediately suspended. Something is very wrong with this case.”
The campaigners say that the case has had both an emotional and financial impact. They say their aims are to ‘balance the narrative’ around the story, allow Claudia to have a voice and provide financial support to fight her appeal. The group is led by the African Women’s Empowerment Forum and their support page states:
Claudia is a woman of integrity, a woman of honesty, a woman of high morals, a woman that we hold in the highest regard, a role model and a leader. We cannot stand by and allow the system to fail another black leader. We must stand together and fight the bias and injustice in our society. If we allow justice to fail Claudia, Justice will continue to fail all of our community and again prove that black people do not matter, not their aspirations and not their lives.
A campaigner and spokesperson said:
“If this were someone else, if it were two white women, or two black women, this would never have got to court let alone a sentence. How can it be that even a black woman who has ascended to a senior position in the labour party is not even given the benefit of the doubt? Any evidence presented didn’t stand the water test as it was all circumstantial. So, ultimately the judge simply decided to believe one over the other. The injustice in her case has been caused by a system that in the absence of real and tangible evidence, favoured the words that are expressed out of the mouth of a white woman over what has been said by a black woman without applying fair balance. This is not justice; rather, this case is an example of someone being discredited, dehumanised, and presented for us to subscribe to the angry black woman, who is aggressively charged and ready to kill someone for a man. It's disturbing, It’s Claudia today, it could be you or your loved ones tomorrow! We need to stand up to this injustice”.
The group are also calling on people from African, Caribbean and South Asian communities to reflect on the actions of a Labour party that relies on the so called ‘minority vote’, and to question their loyalties to any political party that does not support its black politicians and protect them from all forms of racial injustice and abuse.
The spokesperson added:
“The lack of support from the Labour party, does make us question if there is a political gain for them in bringing her down. When Keith Vaz was accused of crimes involving a rent boy, when people are caught up in fraud cases and insider trading – none of them have been suspended. In contrast, Claudia is criminalised like Guy Fawkes, for what was effectively an argument on the phone. It’s both complex and simple!”.
When asked what he thought was behind her treatment, the spokesperson stated there are many layers, including judicial issues, political agendas, and the use of social stereotypes. But the group also questioned whether this case also highlights the argument for individuals being judged in court by their peers. Ms Webbe was a black woman facing a white courtroom and a white judge with what the group describes as a disturbing history of acquitting people on charges of racism, referring to a neo-Nazi case earlier this year.
“The Judge’s background is very relevant, particularly with reference to Claudia’s case, the lack of evidence and the outcome versus his recent acquittals. There is an argument for being judged by your peers, this didn’t happen as a fair hearing for Claudia. The media narrative has been biased and one sided and we have even had unusual issues with setting up a funding page to support her financially, as though she is being shut down. She has been abandoned by the Labour Party which leaves her no platform to have a voice. It highlights the disproportionate treatment of black women, in the workplace, in society and in the justice system. I don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories, but we must look deeper into it. I am certain something is wrong in this case.”
“Claudia has been a tremendous support for me and my community. When I was experiencing traumatic and difficult times as an asylum seeker in poverty, Claudia provided emotional and financial support for me and others. She has been positive on race issues and standing up for our communities. Claudia has been horribly affected emotionally and financially and this case risks her good reputation and standing as a black woman. I know that Claudia regrets entering any conversation with this woman, and perhaps she should never have done so. But she has not broken the law. Today we stand shoulder to shoulder with Claudia. As a community, we believe Claudia. The conviction was wrong, and we implore the wheels of justice in her appeal to be fair. We believe that the initial conviction was made based on bias, inequality, and prejudice. We are standing with Claudia as she appeals against this unjust decision.”
Black African Women’s Empowerment group gave the following statement:
“This Campaign is in support of Claudia Webbe. A strong powerful black woman who is at the heart of our community and who for over 30 years fought for Fairness, Women’s Rights, JUSTICE and much more. We are passionate to stand by Claudia as our sister”.
The campaign also aims to raise money to assist with fees and counselling support.
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