Thousands of people have gathered to commemorate the victims of the attack in Westminster, and to hear speeches by the capital’s mayor and other leaders aimed at preventing terrorism from spreading division and hatred.
London mayor Sadiq Khan tells crowds at Trafalgar Square ‘those trying to destroy our shared way of life will never succeed’
The vigil in Trafalgar Square, central London, was held to honour the dead and injured, Sadiq Khan said, but also “to send a clear, clear, message – Londoners will never be cowed by terrorism”.
The London mayor said: “Those evil and twisted individuals who try to destroy our shared way of life will never succeed and we condemn them.” The victims, he noted, were people from all corners of the world. “London is a great city, full of amazing people from all backgrounds. And when Londoners face adversity we always pull together,” he said.
The event brought a large and fast-growing crowd of Londoners and tourists, many of whom had come from across the city to catch the event.
Mayor Sadiq Khan, right, with the home secretary, Amber Rudd, lights a candle in Trafalgar Square, Thursday. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA
James Armian, 28, a worker at a nature centre, travelled from Tooting in south-west London with his mother, Sandra, saying he hoped to help shift the narrative of the week’s events. “The attack was intended to divide us, but instead it will bring us together,” he said. “It’s meant to create hate, but as you saw from the way people responded to the attack with bravery and kindness, it has created love.”
The event was attended by politicians, religious leaders from various faiths, police and others, and completed by a ceremony in which Khan, the home secretary, Amber Rudd, and Craig Mackey, the Metropolitan police acting commissioner, all lit a candle in commemoration.
“This cannot be undone, much as we would wish it,” Mackey said of the attack on Wednesday afternoon. “However, we do get to choose our reaction, and gathering here tonight shows us exactly how we must move forwards. We must stand together.”
A woman holds a sign at the vigil, called to show solidarity with the victims and their families. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP
Rudd, whose job puts her in ultimate charge of the police, paid tribute to PC Keith Palmer – who was stabbed to death inside parliament’s grounds – as well as other officers and Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative MP who joined efforts to try to save Palmer.
“It reminded us how we are all so connected,” Rudd said of such actions. “The terrorists will not defeat us, we will defeat them. We are strong in our values and proud of our country.”
Among those watching was Sharon Lando, a retired pharmaceuticals industry worker from London, now based in Philadelphia. She had returned to visit friends and family. She echoed the idea that it was pointless seeking to divide people in such a global city. “It’s not about what religion or country people are from. We are all people – the people who were killed and injured were people,” she said.
Earlier in the day the main focus of commemorations had been the new Metropolitan police headquarters on the Embankment, where Mackey and other senior Met officers gathered for a minute’s silence for the victims of the attack.
When Westminster Bridge was reopened early in the afternoon, a mass of flowers began to appear on its northern side, some carrying messages of condolence. One, commemorating Palmer, noted the “meaningless loss of life” and hailed “the selfless courage of a fallen officer”.
Among those adding flowers to the pile was Nick Jacobs, a 47-year-old support worker from Norwich, who had come to London with his parents to see a theatre show. “It just felt like the right thing to do,” he said. “I was shocked at what happened, but we never considered not coming. Things like this can’t change our way of life, they just can’t.”