London police released new details Tuesday about a shooting that left British Black Lives Matter activist Sasha Johnson fighting for her life in hospital, saying Johnson was shot by a group of four men at a party but that it did not appear to be a targeted attack.
The 27-year-old mother of three has been in critical condition in hospital since she was shot in the head at a house party in south London on Sunday.
“Around 3 a.m. local time on Sunday morning, a group of four black males dressed in dark colored clothing entered the garden of the property and discharged a firearm,” London’s Metropolitan police Commander Alison Heydari said in a statement Tuesday.
Heydari said that police were not aware of any threats made against Johnson prior to the incident.
“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,” she said.
Johnson’s political party, the Taking the Initiative Party (TTIP), questioned the police’s account, saying in a Monday statement that “the irony is in the fact that the police have stated that there is no clear evidence that Sasha was the target of the attack, and that there are no credible death threats made towards her; however, how have the police come to this conclusion without being able to speak with Sasha regarding the death threats and investigate?”
“Do the police know who the target of the attack was, in order to conclude that Sasha wasn’t?” the party added. TTIP first said on Sunday that the attack happened “following numerous death threats as a result of her activism.”
TTIP – a political movement that seeks government reform by putting forward candidates that represent a diversity of communities for public office – also said that since the attack, it has been subject to a barrage of racist and hateful abuse.
“We have been receiving emails and social media messages celebrating Sasha’s attack, messages wishing she dies, calling her a racist, and wishing better luck to the shooter next time for not killing her and so on,” TTIP said Monday.
“We need to highlight the issue here in the narrative and the corruption of the system, whereby an individual gets shot in the head yet continues to receive abuse and even gets blamed for being the victim of targeted hate crime,” it added.
Charles Gordon, one of the group’s founding members, said that while the full details of what unfolded on Sunday are still unclear, “we do know that an attack on one is an attack on all.”
‘A powerful voice’
Johnson, a member of the Executive Leadership Committee of TTIP, rose to prominence last year after she helped organize a series of protests against institutional racism in the UK in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
At a demonstration called for by Johnson in London’s Hyde Park last August, she said, “We are no longer looking at just one incident. We are looking at the systemic structure…We’re not disassociating from it (racism). We are saying yes it’s here – and we need to address it.”
Johnson’s radical politics and confrontational style have been viewed as controversial to some: She has written about starting a new Black Panther Party in the UK, with her fashion choices mirroring the original movement’s signature 1960s style.
But her friend and fellow activist Chantelle Lunt, who said she has also received numerous death threats for her work as a Black rights activist, says Johnson has been misrepresented by the far-right.
“What I saw was someone who was so upset about what’s happening to her community and was so determined to fight back.” Lunt said, adding that Johnson was a unifying and empowering force.
“She literally lived and breathed Black liberation,” Lunt said. Johnson is also known for her charitable contributions working to deliver food and groceries to families in need.
In March, Johnson accused authorities of targeting and harassing her and several other Black activists in forcing them to cancel their planned attendance of a demonstration against a proposed bill to increase police powers. The day after Johnson issued that statement, she recorded a video showing her rear car window smashed by unknown assailants.
“Obviously I do have to video this because this is life threatening,” she said a video posted to her personal Instagram account. “This is what happens, when as a Black woman, when you come to the surface and you start to speak out against oppressors,” she said.
Johnson’s supporters and fellow activists held a vigil on Monday evening outside Kings’ College Hospital in south London, where Johnson is being treated.
“Every time she grabbed the mic, she spoke the truth,” one supporter told the group. “We need to make enough noise so she can wake up,” the supporter added, drawing cheers from the crowd.
Leo Muhammad, a friend of Johnson’s, attended the vigil and called her a “warrior, a young sister who has been thrust to the forefront of the struggle for justice in the UK.”
He added that although the facts of the shooting were still being established, “whether it was targeted or [whether] she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, the fact is, nobody is spraying bullets into white communities, but it’s a regular occurrence within the Black community. We should be very concerned about that kind of activity.”
“No justice, no peace,” the crowd chanted.