London terror attacks vigil in Trafalgar Square solemn and sincere

A police vehicle in London after the attack at Westminster. Photo: Nick MillerLondon: It was a very British vigil. But heartfelt, in that particular way the British show their feelings.

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After the Charlie Hebdo attacks two years ago, a mass of Parisians packed the Place de la Republique, laying candles and flowers and singing La Marseillaise.

After the Brussels attacks one year ago, Brusselaars flocked to their old town market square and sketched messages of love, support and defiance in chalk on the ground.

On Thursday evening, in Trafalgar Square, a couple of thousand Londoners came to listen to some brief official speeches, responded with polite applause, then went about their business.

It was no less an act of solidarity than any of the others.

After the event another fatality was announced by London police, a 75-year-old man.

Sadiq Khan, London’s mayor, had called for a vigil for the victims.

There was some edge of nervousness in the crowd. On his way in a young man told his two companions “right, if we hear anything, we run for it”.

But the modest crowd was neither a reflection of fear, nor disrespect, nor disinterest.

Londoners are generally uncomfortable with unironic demonstrations of community. They have already decided how they will respond to the attack: with a stiff British upper lip. By not deigning to honour it with terror.

As home secretary Amber Rudd told the crowd, “today we show (the terrorists) by coming together and going to work and getting about our normal business (that) we will defeat them – we are strong in our values and proud of our country”.

The bells of St Martin-in-the-Fields prosaically marked the quarter hour during the minute’s silence.

Acting police Commissioner Craig Mackey – who personally witnessed the attack that killed a London PC, gave the evening an emotional edge.

“Yesterday’s events were truly terrible,” he said. “All of us have been deeply affected by what has happened. This cannot be undone, much as we would wish it.”

He said Londoners had shown the true nature of the city in their response to the attack. London would move forward and stand together, he said.

“People have tried to tear our city apart with acts of terror many times before, but they have never succeeded and they never will.”

He drew the night’s biggest round of applause.

Mr Khan said London was “a great city full of amazing people from all backgrounds” which would “never be cowed by terrorism”.

“Our response shows the world what it means to be a Londoner.”

After the short speeches there was some confusion in the crowd over where to lay flowers and candles.

Then many decided to head off.

One crowd member, Musharaf, 25, wore an “I’m a Muslim, ask me anything t-shirt”, keen to spread the message that his was a peaceful religion.

He admitted that so far, the only people to ask him anything had been journalists. He hoped that meant people already knew.