The community: 'I don't feel safe staying out late'
Emily Dugan is Social Affais Editor for The Independent, i and Independent on Sunday. She was previously a news reporter for The Independent on Sunday. Her investigations into human trafficking have twice been awarded Best Investigative Article at the Anti-Slavery Day Media Awards and her human rights journalism was shortlisted for the Gaby Rado Memorial prize at the 2012 Amnesty Media Awards. Emily is on sabbatical until March 2015
Thursday 23 May 2013
Situated in one of the most ethnically diverse boroughs in the country, Woolwich is home to many people of African descent who fled their home countries for a more stable life in the UK.
But there were fears that the sectarian violence that has scarred countries such as Nigeria could find an echo on the streets of London, as alleged killer Michael Adebolajo's barbaric attack in the name of Islam sparked fears of revenge attacks – and calls from some locals for exemplary justice.
Ify Eleazer, 46, a care worker, could not get home early enough at lunchtime. She was one of many British Nigerians in Woolwich planning to spend the day behind locked doors. Her arms laden with shopping, she told The Independent: "I don't want to go out later, that's why I'm shopping early. I just want to stay at home. It's scary. I don't want to stay out late because you just don't know what will happen. I wouldn't blame people for reacting angrily. It was terrible what happened to a serving officer."
Another mother, originally from Nigeria, was pushing two toddlers in a pushchair laden with shopping down Woolwich High Street. She was too frightened to give her name, and said she was so scared of possible reprisals that she did not intend to leave her house all weekend.
"That's why I came out to buy things now," she said, "I wanted to buy food and things for my children because nobody knows what will happen in the evening. It's not good."
Joy, a Nigerian mother of two adult sons, who lives locally and did not want her surname in the paper, said she was a Christian and that she believed the killer should pay with his life. "The law in this country is so lenient. It should be an eye for an eye," she said. "If you're not happy living here then go back to where you came from."
Monday Martin, 41, runs New Monday's barber shop, 200 yards from the Queen's Arms where members of the English Defence League gathered on Wednesday night. A British Nigerian, he had glass bottles thrown at his shop by gangs of EDL men shouting "blacks out" on Wednesday and was planning to shut early last night.
"I was working in the shop when they ran down the street. I went out to close the shutters and they threw a bottle at me," he said. "I'm going to close early now because I'm scared. They've attacked me before. In 2004, it was EDL guys who threw a bottle at me, too, and I've still got a scar on the back of my head. The police did nothing."
Tony Northover, 35, landlord of the Queen's Arms, said: "There's no race relations anywhere. Nobody is integrated. Over there, you've got Little Nigeria," he said, gesturing towards the centre of town and the crime scene, "and Somalia is down there," he added, pointing at a nearby estate.
It was not only British Nigerians who were feeling the racist fallout of Wednesday's attack. Alpha Balo, 42, a trainee accountant originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, said things had been tense for all black people in Woolwich since the incident. "People just say it's a black person that killed a white person and then that's it," he said. "we're not safe any more."
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