The contentious left-wing member of a controversial Welsh independence group which was accused by supporters online of being “mad”, and “thick”, for ‘re-tweeting’ an article by a politician who had been cautioned by the police for assaulting his wife, has accused of being a “Scab” a senior Labour MP who defended the police at recent Bristol ‘Kill The Bill’ riots, The Eye can reveal.
The MP for Bristol West Thangam Debbonaire (the Shadow Secretary of State for Housing) said on Twitter about Sunday’s riot: “This is absolutely unacceptable. The scenes of violence and direct attack on the police in Bristol city centre will distress most people including anyone who believes in defending the right to peaceful democratic protest.” And she included a link to a BBC report about the protest.
But soon afterwards the headline-grabbing YesCymru member Kerry-Anne Mendoza (who has been described as a “rock star” by officials) shared the tweet, accusing her of being a “Scab”.
After Sunday’s demonstration against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, a police station was attacked, 21 officers were injured and police vehicles set alight. Avon and Somerset Police arrested eight men and said pictures of “many more” individuals would be released over following days. A man has appeared in court charged with carrying a homemade spear on the night of the riot.
Last night there were further disturbances.
Bricks, glass bottles and eggs were thrown at officers during a third demonstration in Bristol – with the police saying that protesters shone lasers in their faces.
Fireworks were also launched at Avon and Somerset Police’s mounted division.
Yet Ms Mendoza (the co-founder and Editor of left-wing website The Canary) has hit the headlines before for all the wrong reasons.
She ‘retweeted’ a comment from former MP Chris Williamson saying: “The truth is Zionism is a racist, warmongering, supremacist ideology. We need to stand together to defeat it wherever it exists, because it’s the enemy of peace”, and in the same tweet Mr Williamson said Leila Khaled was ‘eloquent’, but the Wales Against Anti-Semitism (WAAS) movement then stated online: “Why is @YesCymru’s Kerry Ann Mendoza retweeting Chris Williamson’s glorification of a convicted terrorist?”. The message was also sent to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, as well as several well known mainstrem journalists.
Ms Khaled was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and came to public attention for her role in the TWA hijacking in 1969, and one of the four simultaneous hijackings the following year. They were part of the campaign of Black September in Jordan.
Our journalists showed how earlier this year YC had announced it was to launch an inquiry into the alleged anti-Semitism of Ms Mendoza, after she had tweeted the phrase Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Sets You Free) which was emblazoned above the gates to Auschwitz. Yet we disclosed that the announcement of an ‘investigation’ was made to a senior journalist months after the remark was made online.
In August Ms Mendoza wrote: “Get Brexit done Build, build, build, Jobs, jobs, jobs Arbeit macht frei”. But six months later the chair of YC, Sion Jobbins, said: “We will be discussing the matter (her alleged anti-Semitism generally) as a committee in conjunction with our new diversity and inclusion lead officer who will be starting work for us on Monday (February 15)“. Despite this ‘discussion’ about Ms Mendoza the message from Mr Williamson which she ‘retweeted’ came the day afterwards, and the outrage of WAAS was four days later.
Ms Mendoza joined YC in the Autumn, shortly after moving to Wales from her home city of Bristol, and her account tweeted news of her membership to its 59,000 followers. Former Cardiff Council leader, the Liberal Democrats’ Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP/SC) candidate for Cardiff Central Rodney Berman said of her joining YC: “The decision to admit and then publicly welcome this individual raises serious questions regarding the priorities and values of YesCymru. Quite frankly, it’s appalling”.
She was suspended briefly from Twitter following complaints about another post in which she compared those attending the Jewish Labour Movement’s conference to “white supremacists”. After the then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s defeat at the polls in December 2019, she suggested that those who opposed Labour over anti-Semitism would be attacked.
Ms Mendoza also accused (Jewish) writer and columnist Jonathan Freedland of “manufacturing” the 2019 General Election result. In January 2020 she claimed celebrations over the completion of Brexit could turn into a “21st century Kristallnacht”. When the Jewish Chronicle (JC) raised concerns about Ms Mendoza’s appearance at a Labour party meeting, she tweeted: “Black woman can’t talk about racism, says white man”.
Ms Mendoza has also appeared more than once on the state-backed television station, Russia Today (RT) which is accused of being a mouthpiece of the autocratic Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and has played host to the conspiracy theorist in Wales, Anna Brees.
For the programme On Contact, Ms Mendoza said she wanted an “alternative media”. She was interviewed, too, by Max Keiser on his RT show The Keiser Report, and declared that austerity is a “fig leaf” designed to conceal aggressive neoliberal policies.
However the organisation she joined, YC, has also been in the news.
It declared in a tweet which has now been deleted that “Open assaults on Welsh democracy have led to (its) remarkable growth”, linking the comment to an article in the Herald.Wales by the MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, Jonathan Edwards, who accepted the police caution after attacking his wife.
One stated: “It’s infuriating. Yes Cymru are doing so much very well, then they just undermine all the good stuff with unnecessary stupidity/lack of sensitivity. They have the money to hire people now to do a better job”. Another proclaimed: “I’ve got very mixed feelings about the MP in question but the timing of YC is absolutely mad. Are they thick? Why do they keep making mistakes like these? They need to start having people who know what they’re doing.”
A further comment was: “In (sic) going to say it AGAIN because it is DOING MY HEAD IN, why does Jonathan Edwards, who admitted he was GUILTY OF ASSAULTING HIS WIFE, still have influence in Plaid Cymru and @YesCymru? And why has the latter PLATFORMED HIM TODAY AFTER THE WEEK WE HAVE ALL JUST HAD?”
Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru (PC) suspended Mr Edwards for a year in July following the attack, meaning he must sit as an independent MP until at least 2021, and a disciplinary panel ruled that any lifting of the suspension depended upon the MP demonstrating “he has undertaken a period of self-reflection and learning to address his actions”.
Even so, PC has been accused of continuing a “close relationship” with him, after it emerged that he had campaigned with PC councillors and used the same adviser as the party leader, following the suspension. Rob James, leader of Carmarthenshire County Council’s (CCC) Labourgroup, raised “serious doubts” about the nature of the suspension, saying that it was just a “PR stunt”.
Yet this is not the first time YC has hit the headlines, and perhaps recently releasing a sexist video in support of its cause (which was again deleted) is one of the ‘mistakes’ being referred to in the online complaint.
In January the organisation released the video promoting Welsh independence which featured a pair of cartoon women’s legs in stockings, and one critic on social media said: “fire the pig that designed it”. It displayed the cartoon of a woman wearing stockings and red arms, with a map of Wales for her body and screaming “YEEEEEEEEEEES”in the caption below.
But it was slammed on Twitter, with one critic saying: “I find it astonishing – and cowardly – that @YesCymru have merely deleted that sexist, appalling video from last night and not acknowledged the disgust felt by their membership and apologised for the offence caused, not to mention the damage sustained to the campaign”. Another said in reply to YC: “Never mind the booklet, burn that fucking sexist animation and fire the pig that designed it”.
The controversy also came hard on the heels of it being divulged on The Eye that splits were emerging in YC, with an angry supporter tweeting that he had cancelled his membership, while another showed his fury after claiming the group had ‘liked’ a tweet from a right wing party, which it had also re-tweeted.
Yet the organisation has long been contoversial, and appears to be offering highly questionable information. YC has claimed that opinion polls report support for Welsh independence among younger people is “around 40-50 %” saying: “Independence is becoming common sense view within young people in Wales.”. The truth is that recent opinion polls suggest the figure among younger people is far lower than this, and also make clear that the vast majority of people in Wales support Welsh parties which are opposed to independence.
But a Welsh independence group member saying a senior Labour MP is a “Scab” for defending the police is also highly questionable, especially when a man was charged with having a homemade spear in the riots she referred to…
Also on The Eye, our Editor Phil Parry looks at the media figures in Wales who promote their broadcaster’s own programmes, yet have been engulfed by controversy themselves.
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