London holds vigil after attack thrusts security to election fore

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Members of the public attend a vigil at the Guildhall in central London to pay tribute to the victims of the London Bridge terror attack on December 2, 2019. (AFP)
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Police officers attend a vigil for victims of a fatal attack on London Bridge in London, Britain. (Reuters)
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Boris Johnson, Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan attend a vigil for victims of a fatal attack on London Bridge. (Reuters)
Updated 02 December 2019

London holds vigil after attack thrusts security to election fore

  • London mayor speaks at vigil for attack victims
  • Sadiq Khan says London will not be intimidated

LONDON: London held a vigil on Monday for two people killed near London Bridge by a convicted terrorist who had been released early from prison, an incident that thrust criminal justice to the center of a campaign 10 days before a national election.
Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, both former students active in a program on prisoner rehabilitation, were killed on Friday when Usman Khan went on the rampage with kitchen knives at a conference about the program beside London Bridge.
At the vigil, London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the British capital had gathered “in a spirit of defiance to say that London will never be cowed or intimidated by terrorism.”
“The best way to defeat this hatred is not by turning on one another but is by focusing on the values that bind us to take hope from the heroism of ordinary Londoners and emergency services who ran toward danger.”
Friday’s attack has become a political issue ahead of the Dec. 12 election. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised a tougher stance on the release of prisoners if his Conservatives win a majority, criticizing the Center-left opposition Labour Party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn as soft on terrorism.
Labour says cuts to policing and social services under a decade of Conservative leadership have made it harder to fight militancy, to track former prisoners and to reintegrate them.
Confronted by bystanders, including a Polish man brandishing a narwhal tusk and others with fire extinguishers, the attacker wearing a fake suicide vest was wrestled to the ground. He was then shot dead by British police.
Johnson and Corbyn both attended the vigil in Guildhall Yard, in the heart of the City of London, held to honor the dead, those injured, the emergency services and the members of the public who intervened.
The attacker had been sentenced to a minimum of eight years in 2012 for offenses including plotting to blow up the London Stock Exchange and British parliament. He was released a year ago without an assessment from the parole board of whether he was a threat to the public, despite a warning from the sentencing judge that such an assessment should be made.
“I absolutely deplore the fact that this man was out on the street, I think it was absolutely repulsive and we are going to take action,” Johnson, whose party has been in power since 2010, said on Sunday.
Corbyn said Conservative cuts to community policing, probation, mental health, youth and social services could “lead to missed chances to intervene in the lives of people who go on to commit inexcusable acts.”
A veteran peace campaigner, Corbyn has also said convicted terrorists should not necessarily serve their full prison terms, and has long said that British foreign policy in the Middle East has played a role in motivating militants.
Amid the political and media rhetoric, the father of one of the dead called on the media and politicians not to use his son to justify division or hatred.
“Don’t use my son’s death, and his and his colleague’s photos — to promote your vile propaganda,” David Merritt said in a tweet above images of the front pages of right-wing tabloids, the Daily Mail and Daily Express, both of which described a government plan for a “blitz on freed jihadis.”
“Jack stood against everything you stand for — hatred, division, ignorance,” he said.
Both the dead were involved in the University of Cambridge’s Learning Together program to help educate and rehabilitate prisoners, which was holding the event where the attacker began his rampage.
Islamic State said the attack was carried out by one of its fighters, the group’s Amaq news agency reported on Saturday. The group did not provide any evidence.


Harris’ Indian heritage could boost Biden with Asian-American voters

Updated 13 August 2020

Harris’ Indian heritage could boost Biden with Asian-American voters

  • Harris, whose mother was from India and father from Jamaica, made history this week as both the first Black woman and Asian American to join a major-party US presidential ticket
  • Asian Americans are an oft-overlooked political constituency, making up less than 6% of the overall US population, but their numbers are quickly expanding in critical battleground states

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign plans to step up engagement with Asian-American voters this fall and is betting running mate Kamala Harris’ experience as the daughter of an Indian immigrant will resonate with the fastest-growing US minority population.
Harris, whose mother was from India and father from Jamaica, made history this week as both the first Black woman and Asian American to join a major-party US presidential ticket. Introducing her on Wednesday as the Democratic vice presidential nominee, Biden said, “Her story is America’s story.”
Asian Americans are an oft-overlooked political constituency, making up less than 6% of the overall US population. But their numbers are quickly expanding in critical battleground states, and galvanizing their turnout could be enough to swing the outcome of November’s presidential election.
After Biden announced Harris as his running mate, Amit Jani, the campaign’s national director for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) outreach, said he saw an immediate surge of enthusiasm on social media and message boards and received calls from Asian Americans seeking to get more involved.
“Within the South Asian and Indian communities, there’s a level of excitement I haven’t seen before,” Jani said.
The Biden campaign has said it will devote part of a $280 million fall advertising blitz to AAPI outreach, including targeted buys in ethnic media.
While Asian Americans are far from monolithic and are comprised of many different ethnicities, they have supported Democrats overall in recent decades. In 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton won AAPI voters over Republican Donald Trump by a 2-to-1 margin, according to a Reuters/Ipsos Election Day poll.
In states such as Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia and Texas – all of which are closely contested ahead of this year’s presidential election, according to opinion polls – the AAPI population grew more than 40% between 2012 and 2018.
That was more than triple the pace for all residents in each state, according to data compiled by AAPI Data and the nonpartisan advocacy group APIAVote. Indian Americans represent the largest Asian-American group in each of those states.
Trump’s 2016 victory came down to fewer than 80,000 total votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where more than half a million AAPI residents live.
“These are places where the Asian-American vote might mean the difference between victory and defeat,” Karthick Ramakrishnan, a professor at the University of California-Riverside and the founder of AAPI Data, said of the various swing states.
In an effort to win support from Indian-American voters, Trump hosted a 50,000-person “Howdy Modi” rally in Texas with visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year. Modi returned the favor in February, organizing a 110,000-attendee rally for Trump in India.
Advocates said Harris’ background as a daughter of immigrants would resonate with Asian Americans of all ethnicities, given that two-thirds of the AAPI population are first-generation immigrants.
Harris described on Wednesday how her parents came from different parts of the world to the United States seeking opportunity and bonded over their commitment to justice.
“What brought them together was the civil rights movement,” she said.
That movement led to the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which ended racial immigration quotas and opened the country to Indians and other immigrants, noted Neil Makhija, the executive director of IMPACT, which recruits and supports Indian-American candidates.
“She ties together all of our national threads in a way that no other public figure has ever done,” he said.
Varun Nikore, president of AAPI Victory Fund, a super PAC that backs Asian-American candidates, said Asian-American voters were turned off by Trump’s attempt to blame China over the coronavirus – including his use of racially charged terms like “China virus” and “kung flu.”
The pandemic has seen a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans, with more than 2,300 incidents from March 19 to July 15, according to the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council.
A Trump campaign spokesman, Ken Farnaso, said it has held more than 500 events geared toward Asian Americans since 2017, including events where immigrants or their relatives share stories about their escapes from socialist or communist regimes.
“With President Trump at the helm, the Asian Pacific American community can be confident they have the best advocate in the White House,” Farnaso added.
Historically, Republicans and Democrats have put little effort toward reaching Asian-American voters. Nikore said lower turnout convinced campaigns not to invest many resources, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Also complicating engagement: None of the major AAPI populations share a common language.
“You really need to have multiple campaign plans, one for every ethnicity that exists,” Nikore said.
The Biden campaign is hosting numerous AAPI events, including the launch of the Wisconsin AAPIs for Biden effort on Thursday and an Indian independence event on Saturday.
This fall, the campaign will have phone banks dedicated to specific ethnicities and staffed with callers who speak the appropriate language, Jani said.
Harris’ elevation to the ticket comes as more Asian-Americans run for office than ever before.
There have been a record 99 Asian-American candidates for federal office in 2020, compared with 48 in 2018, according to research by the nonprofit Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies. This year’s examples include Sara Gideon, the Democratic Senate candidate in Maine, whose father is Indian.
Studies have shown that more Asian-American candidates leads to higher political participation among the community’s voters.
“It’s hard to overstate how important this is for people like me,” said Sri Preston Kulkarni, an Indian American running for Congress as a Democrat in a competitive Texas district near Houston. “Growing up as the son of an Indian immigrant, I didn’t see other faces that looked like mine, especially in positions of power.”