WoolwichMay 29, 2013
It’s a week to the day since Woolwich, an unremarkable part of south London became the focus of the world for the most horrible of reasons.
There cannot be many people who don’t now know what happened on Wednesday, 22 May at around 2.20pm, but I’ll reprise it here. A man walking the streets of Woolwich was run over by a car, then hacked to death by two men who got out of said car brandishing various knives, including a meat cleaver. What followed next was just bizarre. To this day people still can’t quite get their heads around it. The killers Instead of running away, hung around and at one stage got on a bus and asked people to film them! They waited for the Special firearms unit to arrive, then proceeded to come at them, at which point the police opened fire and the two men went down. They were both taken to separate hospitals and kept under armed guard.
Stories were flying around about the murdered man being a soldier who was wearing a Help For Heroes T-Shirt (there’s an army Barracks in Woolwich) and Images of the murder came thick and fast through Twitter and other media. A video was released, shot on a mobile phone, of one of the murderers holding a knife and a machete, with hands so totally covered in blood you’d have thought he was wearing gloves. He recited his manifesto, declaring himself to be a Muslim and talking about an eye for an eye, among other things. Many people were deeply upset: the nightmare was complete. For racists, who will only ever believe the worst of people who are not like them, the image of a black man who happened to be a Muslim, brandishing a knife, was Christmas come early.
A few short hours later, when the poor man who’d been murdered hadn’t properly gone cold, members of the English Defence League, seen by many as a bunch of football hooligans missing a match, saw fit to let their feelings known on the matter by protesting on the streets of Woolwich and throwing missiles at the police. Classy.
I think the people of Blighty have been in shock ever since, but we’re slowly coming to terms with what happened. In this last week, there have been endless phone-ins on the radio (that’s been my medium of choice to get the pulse of the people), politicians huffing and puffing and threatening to bring in extra powers to monitor all our Internet and phone usage, and, Muslims have been apologising for the actions of the people who commit these crimes in their name (again). Nigerian communities have also spoken out, because the killers are of Nigerian descent. This stain has a far reach. It’s also been a week when Muslims have been scared, quite rightly as there have been reports of attacks on individuals and mosques since the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby of the 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, for that is the name of the fallen soldier. The EDL (yes them again) had another protest at the weekend, this time near Downing Street.
That’s been the hefty, horrible downside to this situation. But, as you’d expect from such an awful event, there has been much to restore faith in the human race. On the day of the attack, two women did their best to protect the body of Drummer Rigby. Another woman, thinking there was a car accident, got off the bus. Once she realised what had happened, she tried to persuade one of the killers to give up his weapon. Numerous flowers had been placed on the site where Drummer Rigby had died, as a mark of respect. The Help For Heroes charity has had a massive boost, and, here’s the best one for me, members of a mosque in York resolved the problem of the EDL coming to protest by offering them tea and a chat! How very British.
It’s going to be some time before bridges are rebuilt, but rebuilt they will be, because that is the human spirit, and we’re bloody minded enough to not let these events divide us.