Politicians call on Labour to reinstate Diane Abbott at packed show of support in Hackney

Diane Abbott surrounded by supporters at last night’s rally. Photograph: Maya Sall

Hundreds of people gathered outside Hackney Town Hall last night for a rally in support of Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

On Monday, the Guardian revealed that the Conversative party’s largest donor, businessman Frank Hester, told colleagues that looking at Abbott makes you “want to hate all Black women” and that the MP “should be shot”.

At the demonstration, crowds chanted ‘We stand with Diane’ and heard speeches from people including independent Islington MP Jeremy Corbyn and a representative of Sistah Space, a domestic violence charity for Black women.

The speakers called for Labour to restore the whip to Abbott after it was removed in May last year.

Abbott has been MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington since 1987, making her the first Black female MP and the longest-serving Black MP.

Addressing the crowd, she thanked local residents: “It is Hackney that work to get me elected in the ’80s, and it is Hackney people who have stood by me year after year, decade after decade.”

“What I want to say is this: this is not about me,” the MP continued. “This is about the level of racism that there is still in Britain. This is about the way that Black women are disrespected.”

Abbott talked about the institutional racism faced by her mother after she emigrated to Britain in the 1950s, and said that racism is still embedded in our society today.

She also spoke about Child Q, the Black teenager who was strip-searched by police while at school and on her period.

At the end of her speech, Abbott said: “We have to stand up, we have to stand firm, to make sure that generations of young Black people don’t have to suffer the racism that we had to suffer.”

“I’m very moved by your support, thank you for your support. It will help me to go forward,” Abbott concluded.

The rally was organised by local councillors Claudia Turbet-Delof and Soraya Adejare, alongside campaigners Lucie Scott, Sulekha Hassan and Jermain Jackman.

Cllr Turbet-Delof is one of four women currently suspended from Hackney Labour for voting to hear motions on a Gaza ceasefire and the Tom Dewey case.

Earlier this week, the Bolivian-born politician told the Citizen: “The political persecution of Diane Abbott must stop.”

She called for “a new law that protects women and all in public office from bullying, harassment, and all types of violence”.

Cllrs Adejare and Turbet-Delof (far right and second from right) hold up a banner on the steps of the Town Hall. Photograph: Maya Sall

Cllr Adejare, who was at last night’s protest, said: “The recent news story about Diane is a manifestation of years and years of ‘misogynoir’ – of racial abuse against a Black woman.

“She’s been an MP for almost 37 years and within that time, she’s experienced abuse, racial abuse, sexist abuse throughout it.

“She’s never had the level of solidarity that’s needed, and which is afforded to other women, but on the whole, not Black women.”

The sentiment was echoed by former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who told the Citizen after the rally: “The treatment that Diane has received this week has been unbelievably disgusting.

“This time the death threat was very public, very open and very real. But it’s not the first she’s received – she’s suffered the most abominable treatment on social media and in the mainstream media for a very long time.

“So, the message is: hands off Diane, let her be your MP, let her represent the people of Hackney, who clearly love her, and let the democratic process ensure that the people’s will in Hackney is upheld.”

Corbyn praised Abbott for her “steadfastness in coping with the personal stress that goes with the abuse”, and criticised the fact that she was unable to defend herself in parliament this week.

During Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Question Time, Abbott stood up 46 times in 35 minutes to ask for an opportunity to address the Commons.

It is tradition that if an MP is embroiled in a particular issue, or is in the news, the Speaker will call on them to address parliament. However, Abbott was never called.

In a post on X, Abbott wrote: “I don’t know whose interests the Speaker thinks he is serving. But it is not the interests of the Commons or democracy.”

The MP later revealed to Sky News what she would have said in the chamber: “Has the Prime Minister considered that if he was a little Black child, and he watched his party take 24 hours to say that insisting a Black woman politician should be shot is racist, that it might make that young child think twice before entering politics altogether?”

Cllr Adejare spoke passionately about Abbott’s legacy. “She paved the way for so many of us. Without her, it’s more likely than not that people like me would not be in politics.”

Her daughter was next to her at the rally, holding up a bright red banner that read, ‘We stand with Diane’.

Cllr Adejare added: “For Black History month, Diane was my daughter’s hero, and she wrote a report about her in school.”

Commenting on how quickly the rally was organised, she added: “It’s about making sure that when we look back in history, we know as a community that we stood up in solidarity against the oppression that’s Diane Abbott has experienced.”