Lee Rigby’s mother has urged right-wing social media users not to use images of her murdered Royal Fusilier son to “fuel arguments against the Black Lives Matter protests”.
Pictures of Fusilier Rigby, who was 25 when he was killed by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale in Woolwich seven years ago, have been repeatedly used in recent days by people criticising anti-racist demonstrations on both sides of the Atlantic.
In a post on the Lee Rigby Foundation Facebook page, Lyn Rigby said her family were “aware of a number of posts using images of Lee and his murder in a divisive way”.
She said: “Lee proudly served his country to protect the rights and freedoms of all members of this great melting pot of a nation.
“Seeing his image used to cause hate of any kind, especially for those exercising their freedoms in protest against this issue, hurts.
“We find these posts extremely heartbreaking and distressing, and in complete opposition to what Lee stood for.”
Over the past few days, some social media posts from people opposed to the Black Lives Matter protests have compared his death and the reaction to it with that of George Floyd in the US.
Floyd died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis on May 25, sparking protests throughout the US and, more recently, the UK.
Users have wrongly claimed protests did not take place in the UK after Fusilier Rigby’s murder. But his death did in fact spark demonstrations by far-right groups – and violent attacks were made against a number of mosques in the following days.
More than 1,000 protestors from the English Defence League assembled in front of Downing Street on May 27, 2013, with hundreds of anti-facist activists also attending in opposition.
According to The Guardian, 13 people were arrested. Two men were also jailed after firebombing a mosque in Grimsby, four days after Fusilier Rigby’s murder. A report by hate-monitoring group Tell MAMA published in 2016 found that there had been 100 attacks against mosques since the soldier’s death.
Speaking out in the wake of a resurgence in the use of her son’s image, Lyn Rigby wrote: “We ask you all to please stop using his image and memory in such posts as he was a lover of all of humanity. Every race, gender, creed, sexuality and colour.
“So seeing such use of his name harms not only his family but his legacy and memory.”
Rigby added: “Our thoughts and support goes out to George Floyd’s friends and family at this tragic time.”
It’s not the first time Fusilier Rigby’s family have had to plead with social media users and far-right groups to stop using his name.
In April 2016 Lyn Rigby condemned an election broadcast by Britain First that used her son’s name and image in order to call for an end to mass immigration.
At the time the video was published – to promote leader Paul Golding as a candidate for London mayor – Lyn Rigby said her son did not share Britain First’s views, adding that the family had repeatedly asked them not to use his name.