File photoJoe Cook

Cambridge Police are investigating reports of “racist and threatening abuse” against English Professor Priyamvada Gopal, after online abuse continued into its sixth day and laminated posters targeting Gopal were displayed around Cambridge.

The Churchill fellow and academic in postcolonial literature has faced abuse since tweeting, “I’ll say it again. White Lives Don’t Matter. As white lives” and “Abolish whiteness”, on Tuesday evening.

The tweets were subsequently removed by Twitter and Gopal claims she was ‘banned’ from the site on Thursday, although her account was reinstated later the same day.

The posters, which were attached to bikes and fences along King’s Parade and Pembroke Street, read “Is it ok to be white?”, while others showed images of the Professor and screenshots of her tweets.

Images of the posters were reportedly shared on Friday in an online Telegram group used by far-right activists, which has around 5,000 members.

One of the laminated posters attached to a bike on Pembroke Street in Cambridge. Others included images of Professor Gopal and are being investigated by Cambridge Police.

Separately, Gopal announced on Twitter that she will be instructing lawyers to take legal action against the Daily Mail after they published a column in their print edition on Saturday which Gopal claims is defamatory.

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The column by Amanda Platell stated that Gopal wrote about replacing white people. However this “fake quote” had not been made by Gopal and Cambridge Police confirmed “after investigation that screenshots” of the tweet “purportedly from Professor Gopal are hoaxes”.

The Daily Mail have been contacted for comment.

The fake screenshots were also shared on Twitter by prominent journalists and commentators, including Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine, The Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson and Communications Director for Leave.eu, Andy Wigmore.

Vine and Wigmore have since both removed the post and issued apologies. Varsity was unable to verify if Pearson has removed the post or apologised as her Twitter account has since been set to private.

Prior to setting her account to private, Pearson discussed whether Gopal’s tweet was genuine, writing: “Some of [Gopal’s] colleagues tell me it’s true. I’m getting it checked out. We will know if it’s fake because she will sue.”

Gopal later quoted the thread, writing in reference to Pearson’s comments: “Ah, someone will hear from a top law firm next week”.

This is not the first time that Gopal has disagreed with the Daily Mail. In a statement to Varsity in 2018, she described an article labelling her a “prolific internet troll” as “a racist and sexist hatchet job” and “more evidence of the degraded and fraudulent tabloid culture of this country”.

Cambridge University Conservative Association (CUCA) criticised Gopal on Saturday for liking a tweet that included a sentence calling “whites” a “disease that needs to be cleansed from the earth”.

Gopal has since described this as “a poor choice of ‘like’”, writing that she “withdraw the ‘like’ unconditionally” and claiming she was “‘liking’ a series of supportive tweets late at night, not reading them properly or all the way through”.

The Professor also called on her followers to report the account that made the tweet, saying it “looks like a set-up” and that “the struggle is against white supremacy, not white people.”

In a post on Facebook CUCA called on the University of Cambridge “to act”, saying it was “beggars belief” that Gopal “is allowed to supervise and teach students”.

However Cambridge University continues to stand by Gopal, on Wednesday defending “the right of its academics to express their own lawful opinions which others might find controversial” and condemning abuse as “totally unacceptable”.

It was also announced, on Thursday, that Gopal is to be promoted to full Professorial Chair. The English Faculty Board stressed that this promotion was “decided over the course of the last six months by the University’s normal promotions procedure”.

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