woolwich yesterday afternoon

I might have been assuming more than I should, but yesterday afternoon got a touch uncomfortable at times. I was out on one of my usual Saturday afternoon saunters: the local cricket match had been rained off, so I thought I would go see if anything was happening in Woolwich. There was…

On the way back from the shops, I thought I’d pop into the Kings Arms for a crafty pint. It is now run by an Afro-Caribbean fellow who seems to like me. When I go in there, the place is usually half empty, but yesterday it was packed. The brutal killing of Lee Rigby was commemorated yesterday, so the pub, just a stones throw from the scene, was serving as a convergence point for those attending. While I think any murder is sickening, I must admit I’m not that agitated about the subject; however, what both scared and interested me was the type of people in there. Without wanting to stereotype, the group struck me as largely male, fairly young to middle aged, and loud. Overhearing them talk, many were uttering the type of opinion I usually loath – they seemed like people who vote ukip or bnp. Frankly, some looked scary, and part of me wanted to speed home. Yet I was also intrigued: by staying, I might learn something.

It occurred to me, though, that this was evidence of something slightly worrying. Lee Rigby’s death is being used by the far right: he was killed by two angry, unbalanced men, but the fact that they were Muslims and cited the war on terror as their motive is fuel to the far right’s fire. Their savage actions last year have been seized upon, and have become totemic for the far right. That worries me very much indeed: on one level, yesterday’s events struck me as a rally for xenophobes, o that there had been an attempt by some to turn it into one.

In the end, however, I was never in much danger. The crowd was largely peaceful, and one guy even bought me a beer. An hour or so after I went into the pub, it suddenly emptied. I went on my way after finishing my drink, reflecting on what I had just seen. I may have been wrong about the crowd – after all, I may have bee making judgmental generalisations. Yet the bad taste in my mouth remained: the killing of Lee Rigby is being used to stir up intercultural hatred, as a totemic vent for the far right, and that seems very wrong indeed.

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