Thousands rally in London to remember slain MP Jo Cox on what would have been her 42nd birthday

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Thousands rally in London to remember slain MP Jo Cox on what would have been her 42nd birthday

Deepan Dutta, CU News Corps

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LONDON – Thousands gathered in Trafalgar Square Wednesday to remember and pay tribute to Jo Cox, who was assassinated on June 16 while meeting with constituents in Birstall, West Yorkshire. The rally was held in conjunction with other remembrance gatherings around the world on what would have been Cox’s 42nd birthday.

Attendees held signs with images of Cox’s face and waved placards with taglines such as “#LoveLikeJo.” Organizers themed the event “More In Common,” a nod to a line from Cox’s maiden speech in Parliament where she declared, “[W]e are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”
Brendan Cox, Jo Cox’s widower and father to their two small children, spoke with broken words as he choked back tears.

“Amazing and deeply touching as all of this is, I wish I wasn’t here today,” he said. “Not because I’m ungrateful to the organizers, or to you all for coming. But because of course, I’d rather be… I’d rather be with Jo.”

While describing what Jo would have done on her 42nd birthday had she been around to celebrate it, Brendan Cox touched on the looming “Brexit” vote taking place tomorrow.

“She would have spent it dashing around the streets of our hometown, trying to convince people that Britain is stronger in Europe,” Brendan Cox said. “She feared the consequences of Europe dividing again, hated the idea of building walls between us, and worried about the dynamics that that could unleash.”

His words were met with loud applause from the crowd, many of whom wore “IN” stickers to signify their support of remaining in the EU.
Jo Cox Photo 1 - Version 2
Speakers who followed Mr. Cox echoed sentiments about Jo Cox’s generosity, compassion, and tireless advocacy for refugees from Syria and other war-torn regions. A tribute music video from U2’s Bono accompanied poetry readings from actors Gillian Anderson and Bill Nighy, and the event was headlined with a speech from Nobel laureate Malala Yousufazi.

Malala reminded the thousands in attendance of her own brutal experience of being shot by extremists because of her advocacy for educating girls in Pakistan.

“I’m here today as a living proof that [the extremists] can’t win with bullets either,” she said. “And Jo’s life is a proof that a message of peace is more powerful than any weapon of war. Once again, the extremists have failed.”

The alleged murderer of Jo Cox, Thomas Mair, is currently being held by British authorities on several charges, including murder, with terrorism charges pending in an appearance scheduled for next week. While police have not publicly discussed his motivations for the attack, eyewitnesses to the event have told local media that the attacker shouted “Britain First!” before fatally shooting and stabbing Jo Cox outside a library. Mair has also been accused of having links to far-right groups in Europe and the United States.

The murder has shocked the nation and brought a temporary halt to the heavy and oftentimes nasty campaigning from both sides of the Brexit debate.

Paul Lasok, a campaigner for the Remain campaign, believes people have become fed up with the mudslinging.

“What is noticeable is that the rhetoric is very, very unfortunate,” Lasok said. “This is a campaign where there is very little debate… there’s a lot of haranguing going on. I think a lot of members of the public just don’t like it.”

Roy Ashbury, a retired teacher from Hampshire in Southern England who came to London to pay his respect to Jo Cox, placed a certain amount of blame on the inflamed rhetoric that has been slung in the lead-up to the vote; particularly from the Leave campaign.

“The atmosphere has been really unhealthy,” Ashbury said. “[The attack] was almost bound to happen. Nobody predicted it, but you felt that something bad was going to happen.”

He called the attack a “political act,” and also blames the “hatred and animosity” he sees in conservative newspapers like the Daily Mail. He thinks her death may influence the vote tomorrow.

“I think a lot of people have said that they feel inspired,” Ashbury said. “I feel myself that I must do more to be true to what she believed in.”

The rally concluded with a request that all in attendance join their hands to symbolize love and unity, and a stirring rendition of “Do You Hear the People Sing” from the play “Les Miserables,” Jo Cox’s favorite musical.

Mariella Frostrup, a close friend of the Cox family who hosted the event, thanked those who attended and left them with a message of hope.

“Don’t let this be just one day,” Frostrup said. “Let’s take this feeling of support and love for each other, and unity, and roll it out.”

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