current affairs

Woolwich: The steps ahead after the incident

“We want to start a war in London tonight.”

“We want to start a war in London tonight.”

Those words were not easy ones for Ingrid Loyau-Kennett to hear. The Cub Scout leader heard those words from a man who carried in his hand a knife covered in blood, blood that ranged in the tone of the colour red.

The individual in question was one of the two suspects involved in the death of a man in the Woolwich district of south east London. Across the city and indeed across the UK life was put on hold, as many listened, watched and read with horror the gruesome and truculent act. One man laid there close to death, covered in blood, on a street in broad daylight.

Loyau-Kennett asked the man for an explanation, in an attempt to calm him down and prevent anyone else from being attacked. “I asked him if he did it and he said yes and I said why?” Loyau-Kennett told the Daily Telegraph. “And he said because he has killed Muslim people in Muslim countries, he said he was a British soldier and I said really and he said ‘I killed him because he killed Muslims and I am fed up with people killing Muslims in Afghanistan they have nothing to do there.”

The hours and days that would follow would be a series of investigations by government and an attempt of the people of Woolwich and indeed the whole of Britain to figure out exactly what happened. The man in question who died is now confirmed as a soldier, Drummer Lee Rigby of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, who was back from the UK after serving in Cyprus, according to a report from The Guardian.

Reports now say the suspects are known to be identified as Michael Adebolajo, whose identity was reported to the Guardian by several sources, and Michael Adebowale, whose identity was reported in the Times. However, this information has not officially been confirmed. The two men were shot by police, according to a report from the BBC. A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police told Kettle that both men are still in hospital receiving treatment.

After the attack, protests were held by the EDL in Woolwich. Writing in The Independent, Emily Jupp said they were in front of her house when she arrived. “Most of them had been dispersed by the police but occasionally someone would appear, shouting abuse, some men with their hoods up ran down the street,” Jupp wrote, adding that chants of “EDL, EDL” were heard by her housemate. “It was disturbing to see our house, our neighbours’ houses, the little trees that grow nearby; everything was so familiar and yet it had been invaded by an alien presence, one based on fear and anger and confusion. I don’t know what tonight will be like, but I hope that those who make Woolwich a great place to live will stand up to the fear and lies that spread yesterday and unite a town that feels perilously close to being broken in two.”

Beth Parnell-Hopkinson, a London resident, said there was profound shock of the murder. “It’s nearly impossible to imagine something like this happening on a busy street in broad daylight,” Parnell-Hopkinson said. “The subsequent video footage of one of the alleged suspects with blood on his hands telling us ‘You people will never be safe’ was one of the most disturbing pieces of news coverage I’ve seen in this country. Whatever the ultimate reason turns out to be, it’s appalling and tragic that a man lost his life over it.”

There was also another debate at hand—the view of the religion of Islam. Prime Minister David Cameron said the incident was not justified in Islam, according to a report in The Guardian, and was more than an attack on the British way of life. “It was also a betrayal of Islam and of the Muslim communities who give so much to our country,” Cameron said. “The people who did this were trying to divide us. They should know something like this will only bring us together, make us stronger.”

Lizzie Renfrey, a history and politics student at the University of Warwick (and a Kettle contributor), said the EDL protests were not justified. “It is sad that there is a portion of British society who are aggressive towards the Islamic religion, mainly because of their ignorance on the subject,”. “You cannot blame a whole religion for the extreme actions of such a small minority.”

Renfrey says this could be prevented by having it taught in schools. “Islam should be taught as part of the syllabus in RE lessons, as it is such a big part of society, the second largest religion in the UK,”. “If the next generation receives a basic understanding of this religion it should take away the awful accusation that Islam promotes these attacks.”

At the end of the day, Parnell-Hopkinson adds, London will recover, and the fact that many had helped at the incident says a lot about people willing to help each other out. Yet, Parnell-Hopkinson says, she doesn’t see how these attacks can be prevented completely. “We can all be more vigilant but it’s how we respond to such attacks which really defines how Londoners cope with threats to our lives. One of the attackers said they want us to live in fear of them. Our answer is that we won’t.”

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