LONDON — A British Black Lives Matter activist is fighting for her life after being shot in the head during the early hours of Sunday morning. Sasha Johnson, a 27-year-old mother, is in critical condition after the incident, which comes amid “numerous death threats,” according to a statement from the political party she is affiliated with.
Police did not name Johnson but confirmed a woman was shot in the London borough of Southwark at around 3 a.m. Sunday “in the vicinity of a house where a party was taking place.” She was taken to a nearby hospital. Officers have appealed for witnesses to come forward.
Britain’s Taking the Initiative party announced during the weekend that “our own Sasha Johnson has sustained a gunshot wound to her head.” Describing Johnson as a “strong, powerful voice,” the group said she was known for “actively fighting for black people and the injustices that surround the black community.”
The party, which was founded last year and seeks to represent Black people and those from a working-class background, said Johnson had received several death threats before the attack. London’s Metropolitan Police Service, however, said that at present “there is nothing to suggest” the shooting in south London was targeted and linked to her activism.
“This was a shocking incident that has left a young woman with very serious injuries. Our thoughts are with her family who are being provided with support at this terribly difficult time,” Detective Chief Inspector Jimi Tele said.
Speaking to the BBC on Monday, Johnson’s friend Imarn Ayton, said she did not think the activist was the intended target, saying she believed instead that the incident was linked to a disagreement between “rival gangs.”
Labour lawmaker David Lammy described the shooting as “gut-wrenching,” while Claudia Webbe, also a Labour MP, said “all women should be safe on our streets.”
The official Twitter account of Black Lives Matter U.K. said it was shocked by the shooting of “a young mother and fearless political campaigner,” adding she was a prominent figure who had been at the forefront of marches last year as many more took to social media to offer their well wishes, using the hashtag #prayforsashajohnson.
Johnson helped organize a string of protests across Britain last summer and had been recorded speaking to crowds in the streets while wearing a stab-proof vest and camouflage print trousers.
She also helped organize the Million People March, which took place in London in August last year to protest systemic racism on British soil — despite police warnings against mass gatherings during the coronavirus outbreak.
“As a people, we’re not going to stop until we have equal rights and justice,” Johnson said at the time, adding that she hoped the movement would “empower the community to strive for better.”
Speaking to British media, Johnson told the MailOnline that she was calling for a “racial offenders register” that would see those guilty of “microaggressions” banned from living in multicultural communities and prevented from working in certain industries.
“If you live in a majority-coloured neighborhood you shouldn’t reside there because you’re a risk to those people — just like if a sex offender lived next to a school he would be a risk to those children,” she said.
In the past, Johnson has also led calls to defund the police.
In March, Johnson posted a video on an Instagram account bearing her name, showing followers that her car window had been smashed and dented.
“Just warning you guys that people are attacking activists that are speaking out,” she said. “My car has been smashed up. This is what happens as a Black woman when you come to the surface and you start to speak out.”
A vigil is due to take place outside King’s College Hospital on Monday afternoon, which organizers say will be a space for people to pray, show support and “take a stand against senseless violence.”
No arrests have yet been made in connection to the case.
In 2019, 33 people were killed as a result of gun crime according to Britain’s Office for National Statistics.
In the year ending March 2020, there were an estimated 46,000 recorded offenses involving a knife or sharp instrument in England and Wales, which Parliament has called “a persistent and worrying concern.”