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Opinion & Analysis

We are not afraid

A police officer places flowers and a photo of Pc Keith Palmer on Whitehall near the Houses of Parliament in London, after seven people were arrested in raids in London, Birmingham and elsewhere linked to the Westminster terror attack. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 23, 2017. See PA story POLICE Westminster. Photo credit should read: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

London is resilient. The people here continue with their daily routines. The city remains calm and carries on in a defiant mood.

Terrorists want to strike fear into people’s lives. We cannot allow it. They must not win.

As Prime Minster Theresa May said: “It is in these actions - millions of acts of normality - that we find the best response to terrorism. A response that denies our enemies their victory. That refuses to let them win. That shows we will never give in.”

However, unfortunately for a number of people the attack in Westminster just over a week ago will be much more than something they read about or watch in the news.

The family of PC Keith Palmer, who was so brutally murdered, will have to live with their loss. So too will the family of the other victims. Lives snatched from them. For them terror has struck where it hurts most.

Brendan Cox, who was married to Jo Cox who was murdered in June 2016, tweeted about this latest incident saying that he didn’t care about the name of the attacker, that the name he would remember was of the 48-year old husband and father killed in the attack.

I’ve walked past Parliament Square and Westminster Bridge since the attack. There is a real sense of sadness. A silence fills the air and a sea of flowers at Westminster gates provides a moving tribute as strangers from all backgrounds and all ages pay their respects.

A silence where the sound of sirens had just days earlier filled the air.

Many are trying to understand, come to grips with what has happened. It’s so terrible that it’s impossible to do so.

Police prepare for incidents like this in the hope they will never happen. The reality is this will be a wake-up call.

When I was in Gibraltar for the New Year’s Eve celebrations I witnessed how the RGP used one of its cars to block vehicle access to Casemates as thousands gathered in the square. It was surreal. But, it came in the wake of the terrorist attack in Berlin during which a truck was driven into the Christmas market.

It is right that every precaution is taken where possible. We never know when or where a terrorist will strike next and although it’s important to continue with our daily lives we must never be complacent.

But, how do we stop a terrorist who uses a car as a weapon? More bollards? More barriers? It would be practically impossible to protect every pavement, every street.

Unless there is specific intelligence an attack like this is impossible to stop.
The Gibraltar contingency committee has met and events will be closely monitored. More police officers will be visible on our streets. But, we too must remain vigilant. Any security concerns must be reported to authorities.

Difficult as it may be we need to make sure that instead of focussing on everything that is dreadful about this incident that we don’t forget the stories of human courage. Of the men and women who rushed to the scene to help. As author JK Rowling said on social media when replying to a journalist who highlighted the atrocity “a policeman dies to protect parliamentary democracy. An MP fought to save his life”.

Yes, there was carnage in Westminster bridge, but there were also incredible acts of kindness.

As Theresa May stated, last week “we saw the worst of humanity, but we will remember the best”.

We are not afraid.

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