Woman who carried placard depicting Sunak and Braverman as coconuts charged with hate crime

Marieha Hussain was charged by the Metropolitan Police (Metropolitan Police)
Marieha Hussain was charged by the Metropolitan Police (Metropolitan Police)

A British-Asian woman who carried a placard depicting prime minister Rishi Sunak and former home secretary Suella Braverman as coconuts has been charged with a racially aggravated public order offence.

Marieha Hussain, 37, was arrested after police posted an image in November on social media of her holding the placard at a pro-Palestine demonstration in London.

At the time, the Metropolitan Police said the woman in the photograph was being sought in relation to a hate crime.

Terms like “coconuts”, “Bounty” and “coon” have been used as insults within Black and Asian communities to describe other people from minoritised communities who are perceived as being sympathetic with white supremacist agendas – implying that the person is brown on the outside but Eurocentric on the inside.

The 11 November pro-Palestine protest was attended by thousands of people in central London, including Ms Hussain, who all called for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Around this time, the home secretary had come under fire for repeatedly stoking racial tensions with inflammatory rhetoric about marginalised communities, describing the peaceful demonstrations as “hate marches”, while Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described the protest as “disrespectful.”

Both Ms Braverman and Mr Sunak are of south Asian heritage.

“Whilst I find it bewildering that the police have thought this would be a good use of their time and money, I am absolutely committed to fighting this charge in court,” Ms Hussain, who is understood to be five months pregnant, said in a statement released through CAGE advocacy group.

“The messages to me and the messages asking the CPS to drop their case against me have been overwhelming and I am truly grateful.”

This case is the latest example of a people of ethnic minority heritage being investigated by the police for using this type of language to describe right-wing politicians’ political views.

The Independent first reported on the case of a Black man who was acquitted of hate crime charges after sending a raccoon - ‘coon’ - emoji to a prospective Conservative MP on social media.

Ms Hussain, a former teacher from Buckinghamshire, was reportedly sacked from her job following negative media attention after her participation in the protest.

She is due to appear at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court on 26 June.

A Met Police spokesperson said: “Marieha Hussain, 37, of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire has been charged with a racially aggravated public order offence in relation to a placard carried during a demonstration in central London on Saturday 14 November 2023.

“She was charged by postal requisition on Friday 10 May and will appear at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 26 June.

“Media are reminded that proceedings are now active and nothing should be reported that could risk prejudicing those proceedings.”