Shortly after 10 pm Saturday night in London Bridge and Borough Market in London, three terrorists used a van as a deadly weapon to smash through a crowd, and then went on a stabbing rampage. At least seven people were murdered in the attack, and forty-eight injured. The Guardian reports:
Police said armed officers shot dead all three attackers within minutes of receiving reports of the terrorist attack unfolding in central London. The three men appeared to be wearing suicide bomb vests which were later confirmed to be hoaxes.
People fled as the attack unfolded in one of the capital’s most popular nightspots, and witnesses have given horrific accounts of the terrorists storming into a pub and restaurant to attack people with foot-long knives. They spoke of desperate attempts by customers to fend off the men with bottles and chairs.
In the past, such attacks have elicited little more than candles, Facebook flag campaigns, and assurances that Islam is a religion of peace. There are some signs that this attitude is changing. In response to the terrorism, Prime Minister Theresa May said the following.
Enough is enough, there is, to be frank, far too much tolerance of extremism in our country, so we need to become far more robust at identifying it and stamping it out … That will require some difficult and often embarrassing conversations. We need to live our lives not in a series of separated, segregated communities but as one truly United Kingdom.
This speech stands in stark contrast to, for instance, newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron’s response to terror in France, who stated “[t]his threat, this imponderable problem, is part of our daily lives for the years to come.“
There are also signs of changing attitudes among ordinary people. Taxi driver Chris who witnessed the attack, instantly decided to retaliate, according to LBC.
Then three men got out with long blades, 12 inches long and went randomly along Borough High Street stabbing people at random. I saw a young girl stabbed in the chest.
I said to the guy in my cab I was going to try to hit him, I was going to ram him. I turned around and tried, but he side-stepped me.
There were other stories of similar heroic attempts at interventions.
Three suspects jumped out of the back door, running towards Borough Market stabbing anyone who got in their way and attacking people in bars and restaurants. Witnesses described desperately throwing bottles and chairs at the attackers in an attempt to stop them.
These responses are reminiscent of the passenger revolt on Flight 93 on September 11, 2001. The passengers remained calm as long as they thought that there was a chance of surviving, but once they learned of what had happened to the other planes, they faced their impending death by storming the cockpit and taking down the terrorists.
The changing attitude, both in people on the ground and in the political leadership, indicates that people are facing a similar existential crisis: this violence will not just disappear on its own. It is here to stay and must be confronted, not with candles and memes but with decisive action.