Sadiq Khan’s clean air zone plans for London fuel racist abuse online
The mayor has received at least 304,000 racist messages on social media since 2016
London Mayor Sadiq Khan (Photo:Getty Images)
LONDON Mayor Sadiq Khan’s plans to expand a contentious clean-air zone for motorists has driven a surge in online racist abuse against him, according to an analysis published by his office on Wednesday (5).
Khan, who is of Pakistani descent, was elected the first Muslim mayor of London – and of any major Western capital – in 2016. He has since received at least 304,000 racist messages on social media, the report said, in part fuelled by a long-running Twitter spat with then-US president Donald Trump.
London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which charges drivers of the most polluting vehicles £12.50 a day, is set to more than double in size from August 29, in a fiercely debated expansion that also faces a challenge in court.
Instances of racist abuse towards Khan linked to ULEZ nearly tripled in January-March from the prior three months, reaching a record last month, the Greater London Authority said, citing internal research that analysed posts on Twitter.
“Sadiq has always faced huge levels of racist abuse online, with the volume of attacks increasing again substantially in recent weeks,” a spokesperson for Khan said.
“Policies that address air quality and public health have undoubtedly become a major focus of online hate in the UK and across the world.”
The zone’s expansion, championed by Khan as vital to prevent deaths and illnesses linked to air pollution, has pitted health campaigners against those who say they cannot endure another economic hit during a cost-of-living crisis in Britain.
While public figures face frequent invective online, often from anonymous users, the City Hall analysis underscores the polarising nature of the ULEZ debate in London.
At a public town hall meeting in March, Khan said he found it unacceptable that those with legitimate objections to ULEZ were “joining hands” with far-right sympathisers.