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London unites in peace and solidarity against terrorists

Thousands join vigil in Trafalgar Square for victims of Westminster terror attack

24 March, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

‘Love for all, hatred for none’

THOUSANDS of people rallied in Trafalgar Square last night (Thursday) in a powerful display of solidarity. Candles were lit by the steps of the National Gallery and there was a minute’s silence in memory of those who died in this week’s terror attack on Westminster, which claimed the lives of four innocent people.

Chalk drawings containing messages of peace and hope were scrawled on the pavement near the fountains.

The mood was of calm and peaceful reflection. In speeches to cheering crowds, Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “This is a time to express our gratitude to the heroism of our police officers and emergency services who ran towards danger to help and at the same time to encourage others to run to ­safety.”

Conservative Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: “We will defeat the terrorists. We showed that by coming together, by going to work, by getting about our normal business, because the terrorists will not defeat us.”

Crowds gather in Trafalgar Square

The vigil began as details of six arrests on suspicion of terrorist acts in Brighton, London, Wales and Birmingham were released by the Metropolitan Police Service.

Meanwhile, faith leaders from Westminster stood shoulder to shoulder last night (Thurs­day) and called for peace after the shock attack outside Parliament. Dr Ahmad Al-Dub­ayan, of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Regent’s Park, the Dean of Westminster, the Rev John Hall, and Rabbi Herschel Gluck spoke outside New Scotland Yard in a display of inter-faith solidarity.

Rev Hall said: “There is no division between the faith communities, all the faith communities have repudiated the terrible acts that took place yesterday. We stand together for peace and reconciliation within our nation and across the world.”

Dr Ahmad Al Dubayan said: “We are going to show there is more solidarity in the society, solidarity of the faiths all together against these awful things, which are rejected by everybody.”

Solidarity: Rabbi Herschel Gluck, Rev John Hall, Dr Ahmad Al-Dubayan and Commander Mak Chishty

Rabbi Herschel Gluck said: “We’re here today to show that, despite our differences, we share a common concern for the peace and harmony of our great city.”

Three people died and 29 were injured on Westminster Bridge after an attacker, named yesterday (Thu­rsday) as Khalid Masood, mowed down pedestrians in a four by four car. He then crashed into the railings before stabbing police officer Keith Palmer to death in the grounds of the House of Commons. He was then shot dead by armed police.

Aysha Frade, who lived in Notting Hill and worked as a teacher at DLD College, Lambeth, is believed to have been killed by the car as she was on her way to pick her children up from school.

The college’s principal Rachel Borland said: “Aysha worked as a member of our administration team at the college. She was highly regarded and loved by our students and by her colleagues. She will be deeply missed by all of us. All our thoughts and our deepest sympathies are with her family. We will be offering every support we can to them as they try to come to terms with their devastating loss.”

Keith Palmer and Aysha Frade

The Metropolitan Police Federation has launched a fundraising campaign for the family of PC Palmer, 48, who was part of the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command. He was married with a five-year-old daughter. His colleagues at the Met paid tribute to the “brave and courageous” officer who was “a friend to everyone who knew him”.

PC Palmer had joined the Met in 2001 and had previously worked for the Territorial Support Group. Another who died was a man in his 50s, named last night as Kurt Cochran from Utah. Following Wed­nesday’s attacks, central London fell quiet as the Houses of Parliament were put on lockdown with MPs kept inside, and Westminster Bridge and Victoria Embankment were cordoned off by police.

Messages from the vigil in Trafalgar Square

At the scene, Alexander Willis, who had come down to London for a youth conference, told the West End Extra: “I was coming out of the station when the black car smashed into the fence. There was smoke coming out of the bonnet. I saw a guy on the floor with blood on his face. There were a lot of people crowding round and taking pictures. I heard shrieks. Then I heard the gunshot.”

Westminster Council leader Nickie Aiken said: “We are all appalled at the scenes of horrific violence on the streets of Westminster and our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has been affected, particularly the families and friends of those who have been so tragically killed and those who were injured. On behalf of the council, I would like to pay tribute to the compassion of the public in helping those who had been hurt and the emergency services who responded so effectively. But I would like to pay a particular tribute to the bravery of those police officers who have been put directly in harm’s way as they go about their duties of protecting all of us and our national institutions, in this case parliament, the home to our much-cherished dem­ocracy and freedoms. We are very grateful to them all.”

People of all ages came to Trafalgar Square

Cities of Westminster and London MP, Mark Field, among the first to speak in the House of Commons, told parliament: “The greatest tribute that we collectively can pay to those so tragically murdered, is to ensure we go about our business as normally as possible and maintain the values and the liberties that our ­fore­fathers fought so hard to win on our behalf.”

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