Pariamentary intern Anthony Ridge experiences the aftershock of a murder at the Palace of Westminster.
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The Palace of Westminster has long been an international icon of democracy. The beautiful neogothic building has been listed as a world heritage site since 1987 and is visited daily by thousands of UK and international tourists. It is also a political hub, the heart of the English Parliament and the site where hundreds gather almost every week to exercise their freedom to protest peacefully. But on Wednesday, March 22, a man came with a different intent and used the Palace of Westminster as a site for a heinous act of murder.
The murder took place while I was working in the Palace building. Working in such a high profile location does carry an element of risk but this tragedy was not something I expected to occur during my internship.
The crime itself was abhorrent but while those affected were unable to prevent it, we did have the capacity to decide our response and I am pleased to say the response was admirable. In the days that followed, shock and sadness were tempered by solidarity and hope.
The responses of individuals were exemplified by a palpable spirit of unity in the speeches given by Parliamentarians, but also in the smaller gestures behind the scenes: a brief smile and a nod from a stranger in a corridor or a quick hello with the security staff.
Parliamentary activities recommenced the following day with a fresh perspective on our own mortality and a determination to carry on working for the causes we know to be important. Outside the Palace, masses of flowers were laid, women formed a human chain across Westminster Bridge and a candlelit vigil was held in Trafalgar Square.
These responses overwhelmingly demonstrated how brutal crimes are perpetrated by a tiny minority of our society and cast the better sides of humanity into stark relief. The following day, an MP commented on how minutes after the attack the emergency services were battling to save the life of the attacker and used this to characterise the strength of our society. For me, this strength was encapsulated perfectly in a slogan on a small sticker I saw on my commute to work this morning. It read simply ‘Hope not Hate’.⇓
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