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Thousands worldwide commemorate killed British lawmaker

By FRANK JORDANSJune 22, 2016
Brendan Cox, widower of murdered British MP Jo Cox, makes a speech during a gathering to celebrate her life, in Trafalgar Square, London, Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Jo Cox, a 41-year-old Labour lawmaker who had championed the cause of Syrian refugees, was stabbed and shot to death outside a library in her northern England constituency on Thursday. The suspect gave his name in court as "death to traitors, freedom for Britain." (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Brendan Cox, widower of murdered British MP Jo Cox, makes a speech during a gathering to celebrate her life, in Trafalgar Square, London, Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Jo Cox, a 41-year-old Labour lawmaker who had championed the cause of Syrian refugees, was stabbed and shot to death outside a library in her northern England constituency on Thursday. The suspect gave his name in court as "death to traitors, freedom for Britain." (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

LONDON (AP) — Thousands of people gathered in London and cities around the world Wednesday to commemorate British lawmaker Jo Cox, whose killing last week shocked the country amid a fiercely contested campaign over the future of Britain’s place in Europe.

Artists, friends and family members took to the stage in Trafalgar Square, a mile from Parliament, to praise a woman they described as a passionate campaigner for the rights of refugees and women. Among those paying tribute were Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, the actors Gillian Anderson and Bill Nighy, singer Lily Allen and Cox’s husband and sister.

“She just wanted people to be happy and the world to be a better place,” Brendan Cox told a crowd of about 9,000.

His voice faltering at times, Brendan Cox said his wife had died because of her beliefs that included compassion for those fleeing the war in Syria, but that those beliefs would live on.

“Jo’s killing was political,” he said. “It was an act of terror designed to advance an agenda of hatred toward others. What a beautiful irony it is that an act designed to advance hatred has instead generated such an outpouring of love.”

Cox was shot and stabbed to death in her Yorkshire constituency last Thursday by a man who later gave his name in court as “death to traitors, freedom for Britain.”

Cox’s killing shocked Britain and triggered a three-day pause in campaigning for a referendum Thursday on the country’s EU membership.

Her husband said the Labour Party lawmaker would have been campaigning for Britain to remain a member of the 28-nation bloc had she not been killed. “She feared the consequences of Europe dividing again,” he said.

In a stark reminder of the political backdrop, a small plane flew by the square three times during the event trailing a banner bearing the words “Take Control, Vote Leave.” It was unclear whether the plane intentionally buzzed the memorial and whether it was linked to the official “leave” campaign.

The event was broadcast live by video to several cities around the world, including Sydney, Paris and New York, where about 100 people gathered near the United Nations headquarters.

The gatherings Wednesday marked what would have been Cox’s 42nd birthday and 42 white Yorkshire roses were laid in Trafalgar Square.

Some in the crowd held up placards with the phrase ”#LoveLikeJo” and many wept during a minute’s silence and as videos were shown on a large screen from Cox’s life.

Yousafzai, who referred to Cox as her “sister,” said the response to the lawmaker’s death mirrored the sympathy she received after being shot while campaigning for girls’ right to education in Pakistan.

“Once again the extremists have failed,” she said.

Many of those attending the memorial said they had never met Cox but felt moved to come and express solidarity with her family.

“This was a terrible thing to happen to any human being,” said Hindi el-Fadel from Richmond, near London. “She just represented humanity, dignity.”

El-Fadel said Cox’s killing showed how polarized political debate in Britain had become lately.

“It’s just really for me a reflection of the state of people’s minds.”

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