Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, led a somber British parliament on Monday to honor the Conservative lawmaker who was stabbed to death while meeting constituents at a church hall. This attack has raised questions about the country’s ability to protect its politicians and deal with extremism domestically.
As detectives attempted to determine if David Amess was targeted because he was a legislator or for other reasons, they received a lot of support from grieving colleagues. Ali Harbi Ali (25-year-old British Somalian man) was taken into custody on the spot and is currently being held under the Terrorism Act for suspicion of murder. According to police, the suspect could have been motivated by Islamist extremism.
Prime minister said to lawmakers that the House had lost a “steadfast servant.”
“Sir David was taken away from us in contemptible violence, striking at what it means to be a Member in this House, and violating both the sanctity both the church in which his death occurred and the constituency surgical that is so essential for our representative democracy,” he stated. He was referring to open meetings British lawmakers have with the people they represent.
Britain was shocked by the death of the popular legislator, who had been a member of Parliament for nearly 40 years and was knighted in 2015 by Queen Elizabeth II. This happened five years after Jo Cox, a Labour Party lawmaker, was shot and stabbed by a far right extremist. Cox was the first British lawmaker killed in Northern Ireland since a peace agreement ended the violence nearly 30 years ago.
Monday’s return to the House of Commons was after a three-week hiatus. The session opened with Tricia Hillas, the Speaker’s Chaplain, a prayer and then a minute of silence by hundreds of lawmakers.
The then legislators from all parties stood to recall Amess as a hardworking legislator who never sought high office, but rather, Johnson said, “simply wanted the people of Essex” his home county.
Amess was a social conservative, aged 69. He opposed abortion, supported animal rights, and strongly supported Britain’s exit the European Union.
Keir Starmer of Labour Party, who was often at odds with Amess on politics, stated that Amess held his beliefs “passionately, but gently” and that his life was a reminder of “civility matters.”
Following the memorials, lawmakers walked across the street to St. Margaret’s Church in medieval St. Margaret’s Church for a service in Amess’s memory. This included prayers for those “feel vulnerable in public services.”
Following Friday’s attack in Leigh-on-Sea (a town in Amess Southend West constituency, about 40 miles (60 km) east of London), the government ordered a review to lawmakers’ security. While British politicians are protected in Parliament, they do not receive such protection when meeting with constituents in their districts.
This is despite many politicians claiming that they have been subject to more abuse online than in person in recent years. Police in Wales announced Monday that they had arrested a man aged 76 on suspicion of making a threat against Chris Bryant, Labour lawmaker. This is the latest in a series of threats against politicians.
Bryant stated that the political climate was “more bitter now than it has been in 20 years.”
Many politicians worry about their safety but they resist creating more barriers between them and the public in a country that has a long tradition of openness. In this country, lawmakers hold “surgeries” to listen to constituents’ complaints.
Johnson stated that politicians would not allow acts of evil to win over the democracy and Parliament Sir David Amess adored so much.
This killing also reopened the debate on the threat posed by people radicalized in Islamic extremist or far right ideologies.
Multiple media outlets reported that the suspect was referred to a government-sponsored program to help people avoid extremism. However, the security services did not consider him a current subject.
Ali is from Somalia’s prominent political family. Harbi Ali Kullane his father, who was a former adviser for Somalia’s prime Minister, said that he was “traumatized by the attack” and that his son’s arrest.
Ali is currently being interrogated at a police station. He has not been charged or presented in court. He has until Friday to be charged or released by police, but that time can be extended. They are trying to find out if he had any connection to Amess, and why he targeted him. The meeting with voters was open to the public.
Amess fought tirelessly for Southend’s city status, for disabled children and for women with endometriosis. On Monday, the prime minister announced that the queen had granted Southend city status to applause in Parliament.
Amess was also a member or chairman of several committees. These included the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils. This group promotes Sri Lankan rights and is headed by the All-Party Parliamentary British-Qatar Group. It aims to strengthen ties between the two nations. Amess was just days away from being killed when he visited the Gulf state.
Investigators in the United Kingdom have so far not found any evidence linking Qatar to U.K.
Monday was Monday. Members of Parliament and staff left flowers and handwritten messages in the courtyard at Parliament. Julia, Julia’s widow, was moved to tears by the numerous flowers, notes, and cards left behind by Leigh-on-Sea residents as she stood outside the Methodist Church.
Amess’ family stated in a statement that they are still trying to understand what happened.
Julia Amess, the husband and their five children said that they ask everyone to put aside differences and show kindness and affection to all. This is the only way to move forward. Put aside your hatred and work together.