Woolwich: The Attack and the Aftermath

Posted: May 23, 2013 in Anti-Fascism, EDL, UK

Wednesday afternoon saw the horrific murder of a man in the London. As soon as the news broke speculative information about the incident began firing its way across the Internet. With this a narrative began to form making the whole thing seem like a right wing movie script. A serving soldier is beheaded by Islamic militants in broad daylight, the British Prime Minister diverts his flight from Brussels to Paris to return to the UK, calling for an emergency meeting of ‘COBRA’, the terrorists call for the government to be brought down and justice to be served before they are shot on scene by specialist armed police. But this wasn’t a movie and there would be no Hollywood ending.

Police and ambulance helicopters were sent to the incident.

Police and ambulance helicopters were sent to the incident.

Around 4pm yesterday reports began to emerge telling of a serious incident in the Woolwich area of London. With little concrete information at the time journalists turned to Twitter where claims were being made that a man wearing a Help For Heroes t-shirt had been attacked by two men wielding machetes and a revolver. One witness claimed that the victim, who has now been named as Lee Rigby, had initially been run over by the attackers in their car. Soon Local MP Nick Raynsford spoke to the BBC saying that a soldier serving at a nearby Army barracks had died in the incident and two others had been seriously injured. An hour later and the Prime Minister had rescheduled his work in Paris to return home for a Cabinet Office Briefing Room A (COBRA) meeting convened by the Home Secretary. COBRA meetings are held in the event of a national crisis, or during events abroad with major implications for the UK. It was soon after this that the tone of events began to change.

What had initially been a tragic incident was now a terrorist attack as senior Whitehall sources, not eyewitness observers, told the BBC that the Woolwich attackers are thought to have tried to film their attack whilst shouting “Allahu Akbar” – God is Great. This accusation has yet to be proven, but it’s impact would soon become clear. In the wake on the 7/7 bombings in 2005 Armed officers from the Metropolitan Police were deployed on the Tube and railway and are still a noticeable presence, following Wednesday’s incident Metropolitan Police Commander Simon Letchford declared “There will continue to be an increased police presence in this area, and the surrounding areas this evening. That presence will continue as long as is needed.” The BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson described the attackers as being of ‘Muslim appearance’ and as familiar motifs around terrorism and Islam were invoked the gates were opened for the inevitable racist backlash that was to come. The media are well versed in seeking out a Muslim connection with stories such as these, so much so that their coverage of the Utoya massacre posited that Anders Breivik was a Muslim or that there was some Muslim involvement well past the point where we had learned Breivik was a right wing Islamaphobe inspired by the English Defence League (EDL).

With blood soaked hands Adebolajo delivers his message.

With blood soaked hands Adebolajo delivers his message.

During the course of the evening a video surfaced showing one of the attackers, Micheal Adebolajo, hands covered in blood presenting his message to a witness who was filming proceedings on their mobile phone. With this he said, “We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Adding “I apologise that women have had to witness this today, but in our land our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don’t care about you.” He said that the beheading of this soldier was a message to David Cameron, who has sent British troops to Arabic lands. His message was a political one, with the only bit of scripture being taken from the Bible, not the Qur’an. After showing this footage ITV news referred to the scene in Woolwich as a day when ‘Baghdad-style violence’ came to south London. A phrasing that could easily refer to the barbaric acts that have been carried out by imperial forces since the advent of the ‘War on Terror’, but is more likely to be a media propagated justification for the continued presence of British troops in the Middle East.

Fears of a prolonged backlash against Muslims intensified after dozens of Islamophobic incidents have been reported since the murder of Lee Rigby. The Tell Mama hotline for recording Islamophobic crimes and incidents recorded 38 incidents over Wednesday night, including attacks on three mosques, with more reported on Thursday. One attack on a mosque in Bletchley involving a molotov cocktail being thrown on the roof is now being treated as arson by the police, not a hate crime and certainly not terrorism. It’s hard to imagine such horrific events having any form of victor, but if anyone has made gains from this brutal murder it is the Islamaphobes and racists and in particular the EDL.

Using their twitter account the EDL entered discussion of the events in Woolwich by claiming:


This was shortly followed by the announcement:

“EDL leader Tommy Robinson on way to Woolwich now, Take to the streets peeps ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”

That evening around 100 EDL members descended upon the streets of Woolwich sporting official balaclavas and armed with bottles. That the EDL were able to mobilise so many so quickly went against what has been seen of them recently, perhaps this was the event they needed. As the racist backlash continued to build online so did support for the EDL, at one point it seemed that there was around a thousand ‘likes’ being acrued each minute. Overall the number of likes on the EDL Facebook page grew by more than 300% in the space of 24 hours.

Tommy Robinson and his band of masked fascists.

Tommy Robinson and his band of masked fascists.

Bolstered by this rush of support the EDL have announced two new events, firstly a march on Downing Street this coming Bank Holiday and secondly a ‘Day of Justice’ on June the 6th in Woolwitch. The latter event was originally to mark the sentencing of six men who were intending to target the EDL demo at Dewsbury in June 2012, but with this weeks events this demonstration will no doubt have added furor. These are the only national call outs in addition to the EDL’s already planned tour of hate, but it is expected that local units will seek to cause disturbance in their areas. It is important that these demonstrations are not left un-opposed. The message should be clear, our streets are not the place for the racist hate that these fascist scumbags wish to bring.


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