A Stormont candidate was grabbed by the throat in a terrifying “sectarian and misogynistic” attack while out canvassing.
Hannah Kenny, standing for the People Before Profit party, said the assault took place last Saturday while she was delivering election material in east Belfast.
She said she was surrounded by three men who gripped her by the arm and throat before threatening more violence against her if they saw her in the area again.
A statement from the party said: “This incident took place on Saturday afternoon as our party activists were out around doors promoting our election message, in an area that – like many working-class communities on both sides of the sectarian divide – has suffered decades of austerity and deprivation under Stormont.
“Hannah was approached by three men who subjected her to a terrifying ordeal, both sectarian and misogynistic in nature. They blocked her path, gripping her by the arm and throat before detailing the violence they would subject her to if she returned to the area.”
Kenny said she was “deeply distressed” by the level of aggression shown towards her and that the men told her she had been identified from election campaign posters.
“Unfortunately, there exists a minority intent on polarising this election along familiar lines,” she said. “We have seen other election candidates attacked and threatened, with posters being damaged in various places.
“These aren’t just attacks on individuals like myself, they are attacks on the democratic process intended to take us backward.”
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said it was reported that a female was verbally abused and threatened by three men while distributing election material.
It added that the report included allegations of physical and verbal assault, including both sectarian and misogynistic comments.
Ch Insp Mark Roberts said: “We have contacted the political parties to proactively offer briefing sessions and information for candidates on crime prevention and personal safety, and our officers will continue to offer support and advice at a local level.
“Inquiries are ongoing and at this time we are treating this as a hate crime.
“We are appealing to anyone who witnessed this incident or who has any dashcam or mobile footage, or any information which could assist, to contact us on 101.”
The PA Media news agency contributed to this report.