UK Labour MP Dawn Butler has provoked a storm of criticism for publicly applauding Extinction Rebellion protesters who disrupted the distribution of newspapers, a move that has been roundly condemned as an attack on press freedom.
More than 100 climate activists blockaded three printing presses owned by Rupert Murdoch, preventing workers from getting a plethora of the UK’s most popular titles to shops.
The Labour politician exulted in the stunt, taking to Twitter to herald it as “excellent work.” “Bravo #ExtinctionRebellion,” she gushed, accompanying the message with clapping hands emojis.
The post quickly provoked a flood of condemnation of the former shadow equalities minister, with many from the media and political spheres taking issue with her message. Outraged TV host Piers Morgan branded Butler’s tweet as “shameful,” saying: “A senior British politician celebrating the stifling of free speech – shameful.”
Conservative MP Michael Fabricant added: “Dawn Butler applauds the blocking of roads and the stopping of newspapers from being distributed. So, Keir Starmer, do you agree with her???? (She’s now deleted her tweet, but here it is for all to see).”
Numerous people also directed similar queries at the Labour Party and its leader Keir Starmer, asking if Butler was expressing official Labour policy. Amidst the uproar, Butler quickly deleted the tweet. Needless to say, that did little to quell the controversy.
The backlash against Butler also inspired many to highlight newspaper articles from 2009 reporting that she faced allegations of claiming more than £37,000 ($49,130) in expenses to pay for a second home in her constituency. A parliamentary committee exonerated Butler over the claims.
Would I be right in noticing that @DawnButlerBrent has deleted her tweet praising attacks on the free press? Why might that be? And why does she hate the free press so much? Is she still bitter about revelations about her whirlpool-bath? https://t.co/WgJnfwzX1x
— Douglas Murray (@DouglasKMurray) September 5, 2020
Saturday’s news blockade coincides with Extinction Rebellion’s planned 10-day disruption, which aims to pressure the government to do more to act on climate change. “We are in an emergency of unprecedented scale and the papers we have targeted are not reflecting the scale and urgency of what is happening to our planet,” the group said in a statement on Saturday.
“To any small businesses disrupted by the action this morning we say, ‘We’re sorry.’ We hope that our actions seem commensurate with the severity of the crisis we face and that this day of disruption successfully raises the alarm about the greater disruption that is coming,” it added.
The presses targeted by the activists print The Sun, The Times, the Sun on Sunday and the Sunday Times, as well as the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, and the London Evening Standard.
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