Resident's view: Racial conflict has come to Woolwich for first time


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The Independent Online

Woolwich has been my home for six years. It has always felt safe. Even during the riots, I wandered down the High Street past smashed windows and looters in hoodies. Yes, it was unsettling; there was anger and frustration, but it was directed at property, and sometimes at police. It wasn't divided along racial or religious lines. It didn't make a dent in the community. Soon, the clean-up mission began, and people were talking on street corners about the minority who'd caused destruction in the place we all live. People were bonded by it.

This was different. After the ripples from the daytime atrocities filtered through to Wednesday night, the streets were thick with tension. At 11.30pm, the usual late-night shops were shut and I took the most open, well-lit road home.

Woolwich's geography divides the town – the rich on one side, the poor on the other – but it has not felt racially divided until this week.

When I reached home, members of the English Defence League were outside my house. Men with their hoods up ran along the street. Around 30 EDL members had gathered, shouting racist slurs. It was disturbing to see our neighbourhood like this; everything so familiar and yet invaded by an alien presence based on fear, anger and confusion.

I hope that those who make Woolwich a great place to live will stand up to the fear and lies that spread and unite a town that feels perilously close to being broken in two.