London stands united against terror


This article was first published in the South London Press on 31 March 2017.

On Wednesday last week, 52-year old Kent-born Khalid Masood (born Adrian Elms) mounted the pavement of Westminster Bridge and ran down people indiscriminately before crashing his car. He then proceeded to stab PC Keith Palmer who was on duty guarding the Houses of Parliament, before being shot dead by armed police in its grounds.

We were deeply saddened to hear of all the deaths, particularly one of our own, 75-year old Leslie Rhodes from Lambeth, who tragically died on Friday morning from the injuries he suffered. The thoughts and prayers of our whole community go out to his friends and neighbours, we can only imagine what they are going through.

The first victim, PC Keith Palmer, was a husband and father who died defending the lives of others and our democracy. He was someone those of us in Westminster saw every day, and every day he was there to keep us safe.

Among the other victims and injured there were parents, husbands, wives, and children, tourists, and Londoners, from countries across the globe. Our thoughts are with them and their families.

London is a diverse, multicultural place, and is the most-visited city in the world. It is a symbol of our shared values of democracy, liberty, and equality, values that this cowardly lone attacker had decided to target.

But in the aftermath of the attack, it has been those values that have shone through. Members of the public stepped up, without being asked, to help those injured on the bridge.

The Police acted quickly to protect not only politicians, but the tourists, families, and children who were visiting Parliament, or enjoying a sunny day in London. Paramedics came to the aid of all those hurt, having to keep level heads. They ran towards the violence and danger while encouraging everyone else to run to safety in the opposite direction.

These acts required immense bravery and compassion, and in the coming weeks, I hope that it will become clear that their courage and humanity was the true story of the Westminster attack, and not a cowardly attacker. This great city and country will never allow those who seek to spread terror and hatred to prevail. United we stand, whatever race or religion we belong to.

This lone terrorist does not represent all Muslims, in the same way that the killer of my former colleague Jo Cox did not represent his community. After the attack, those of Christian faith, Jewish faith, Muslim faith, no faith, and many other faiths, spoke out for democracy, solidarity and peace. When some tried to use the attack to fuel divisions, London united.

Together, we will not let the terrorists use fear to divide us nor will we let them succeed. It is for this reason that I am so proud that the day after the attack, MPs went back to work, and Parliament and our democracy resumed.

We all owe a debt to Lambeth and Metropolitan police services for their swift response and utmost professionalism to keep everyone safe, and we regretfully mourn the loss of their heroic colleague.

I would also like to commend the bravery and quick-thinking of Tobias Ellwood MP, the government minister who ran to help PC Keith Palmer, and my Labour colleague Mary Creagh MP, who ensured Westminster tube station was closed quickly to protect the public emerging from the station.

The council and partner agencies are supporting the police to ensure we continue with our daily lives in safety. We ask everyone to remain calm and vigilant of any suspicious activity. If you have any information in relation to this incident, please call 0800 789 321.