BIRSTALL, England (Reuters) - In the town where a British lawmaker was shot and stabbed to death, her family, friends and the people she represented called for an end to the vitriolic campaigning that has marred the debate in the run up to Britain’s vote on EU membership.
Cox’s sister Kim Leadbeater said an outpouring of love in the last 48 hours showed that the “silent majority” of British people shared Cox’s belief in fairness and justice.
The 41-year-old mother-of-two was killed in Birstall, northern England, as she was about to hold a meeting with members of her constituency on Thursday.
Leadbeater and her parents visited the scene on Saturday to thank local people for their support, a few hours after local man Thomas Mair was charged with her murder.
“We have to continue this strength and solidarity in the days, months and years to come as part of Jo’s legacy,” she told well-wishers in an emotional tribute to her “utterly amazing” and “perfect” sister.
“When Jo would get abuse on Facebook or Twitter we would talk and we would sometimes cry together, but she would still focus on the positive and talk about the silent majority who didn’t always shout the loudest but who she knew were in her corner.”
The killing of Cox, who was elected to parliament just over a year ago, stunned the close-knit Yorkshire community, politicians of all hues and voters across Britain.
Members of Parliament make themselves available to all voters in their constituencies as part of Britain’s democratic system. Violence towards them is very rare, and Cox’s murder is the first of a lawmaker for a quarter of a century.
Both sides have halted an increasingly bad-tempered campaign on Britain’s membership of the European Union but are due to resume next week ahead of the June 23 vote.
People of all ages and faiths laid flowers in a marketplace about 50 yards (meters) from where she was killed in the street.
They followed in the footsteps of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and the leader of Cox’s opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. Their bouquets were quickly lost in a sea of flowers.
Ash Hussain came with his family, including daughter Saara, aged 10, who had given Cox a tour of Mill Lane School in the nearby town of Batley, when she came to tell the young pupils about democracy and the work of parliament.
Democratic values were a theme in tribute after tribute, and many local voters were in tears.
Shelagh and David Bullimore, both aged 67, said they felt compelled to come for the sake of “the things that she died for, which were democracy, the connections she tried to make between different communities here and her work for Syrian refugees”.
David Bullimore said he hoped the political discourse would now quieten before the EU referendum.
“Not saying which is correct, whether we should stay in or stay out, but I think some of the language that has been used in this referendum process has not been helpful for the integration of communities, and I think all, or many, of the people involved have to reflect on that,” he said.
Local vicar Paul Knight said the debate about Britain’s future in Europe had struck the wrong tone.
“We all recognize the exaggerations, hyperbole, and anger. And unless that changes, and we’ve only got a few days for that to change, then it’s very sad,” he said.
“We’ve paused, and I pray we’ve paused so we might start again in a more reasoned way so people might come to a decision about what they feel logically and in their hearts,” he said.
Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Jon Boyle