Friday 22 September 2017

'Whatever our religion this city is greater' - Thousands gather for vigil in Manchester show of solidarity

People hold a placard as they take part in a vigil for the victims of an attack on concert goers at Manchester Arena, in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
People hold a placard as they take part in a vigil for the victims of an attack on concert goers at Manchester Arena, in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Robin Schiller

Thousands of people have turned out for a peace vigil in Manchester in memory of the victims of last night's terror attack.

From the early afternoon people began to filter onto Albert Square in the city centre, just a few hundred metres from the scene of the attack at the Manchester Arena.

In a heartfelt speech, Chief Constable Ian Hokpins, who is leading the investigation, thanked the Manchester community and people around the world for their support, while expressing his distraught at last night's bomb attack.

"Today we hope and pray for what we wouldn't want to see. Young families, young children went out to enjoy themselves in this wonderful city but tragically lost their lives.

"As your Chief Constable and a father I can not begin to imagine how someone could carry out such an act by murdering 22 and injuring 59 people," the senior investigator said.

He was joined on stage by local politicians as well as representatives of various faiths and religion, with one member of the  expressing: "We will pull through the events of last night because we stand together. Whatever our religion this city is greater than the forces who align themselves against it."

People gather ahead of a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, after a 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the Manchester concert bomb attack. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 23, 2017. The attack killed 22 people, including children, and injured dozens more in the worst terrorist incident to hit Britain since the July 7 atrocities. See PA story POLICE Explosion. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
People gather ahead of a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, after a 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the Manchester concert bomb attack. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 23, 2017. The attack killed 22 people, including children, and injured dozens more in the worst terrorist incident to hit Britain since the July 7 atrocities. See PA story POLICE Explosion. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Women wait to take part in a vigil for the victims of an attack on concert goers at Manchester Arena, in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples
People gather ahead of a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, after a 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the Manchester concert bomb attack. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 23, 2017. The attack killed 22 people, including children, and injured dozens more in the worst terrorist incident to hit Britain since the July 7 atrocities. See PA story POLICE Explosion. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
A woman waits to take part in a vigil for the victims of an attack on concert goers at Manchester Arena, in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jon Super
Former England cricket captain Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff in the crowd ahead of a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, after a 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the Manchester concert bomb attack. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 23, 2017. The attack killed 22 people, including children, and injured dozens more in the worst terrorist incident to hit Britain since the July 7 atrocities. See PA story POLICE Explosion. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Sikhs wave placards before a vigil for the victims of an attack on concert goers at Manchester Arena, in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jon Super
People hold a placard as they take part in a vigil for the victims of an attack on concert goers at Manchester Arena, in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
People attendn a vigil for the victims of an attack on concert goers at Manchester Arena, in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jon Super TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People gather for a vigil in George Square, Glasgow, after a 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the Manchester concert bomb attack. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 23, 2017. The attack killed 22 people, including children, and injured dozens more in the worst terrorist incident to hit Britain since the July 7 atrocities. See PA story POLICE Explosion. Photo credit should read: Paul Ward/PA Wire
People leave flowers during a vigil in George Square, Glasgow, after a 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the Manchester concert bomb attack. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 23, 2017. The attack killed 22 people, including children, and injured dozens more in the worst terrorist incident to hit Britain since the July 7 atrocities. See PA story POLICE Explosion. Photo credit should read: Paul Ward/PA Wire
People leave flowers during a vigil in George Square, Glasgow, after a 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the Manchester concert bomb attack. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 23, 2017. The attack killed 22 people, including children, and injured dozens more in the worst terrorist incident to hit Britain since the July 7 atrocities. See PA story POLICE Explosion. Photo credit should read: Paul Ward/PA Wire
People attend a vigil in Albert Square outside Manchester Town Hall after a 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the Manchester concert bomb attack. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 23, 2017. The attack killed 22 people, including children, and injured dozens more in the worst terrorist incident to hit Britain since the July 7 atrocities. See PA story POLICE Explosion. Photo credit should read: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
People gather for a vigil in Albert Square outside Manchester Town Hall in Manchester after a 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the Manchester concert bomb attack. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday May 23, 2017. The attack killed 22 people, including children, and injured dozens more in the worst terrorist incident to hit Britain since the July 7 atrocities. See PA story POLICE Explosion. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien
Scenes at the vigil in Albert Square in Manchester for the bombing victims Credit: Kyran O'Brien

In an defiant call, the Bishop of Manchester David Walker said: "You can not defeat us because love is always stronger than hate.  "We will pull together because we stand together. Whatever our background, whatever our religion, our beliefs, our politics we will stand together because this city is greater than those that align itself against it.

 "We say that sending a signal, not just to Manchester, but to the World that you can not defeat us because love in the end is always stronger than hate," Bishop David said to rapturous applause.

The Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins, who is leading the investigation into the terror attack, gave a impassioned speech to the thousands in attendance, in which he thanked emergency personnel who have worked tirelessly throughout the night.

"Today is the day that we all hoped and pray we would not ever see, families, young children went out last night to enjoy themselves in our wonderful city and tragically lost their lives in a horrific way.

"As your Chief Constable and as a father I can not begin to imagine how anyone could carry out such an unthinkable act, murdering 22 people and injuring 59. Mu thoughts, and those of all of my colleagues, are very much with their families at this incredible difficult time," Mr Hopkins said.

Local poet Tony Walsh read out his poem 'This is the place', which he said summed up "what makes this city, this city regiob, this community, so great".

Lu Bowen, 40, brought flowers to lay as a mark of respect, and said it has been a "horrific" day.

Standing alongside her teenage daughter Lucy, she said: "We watched it all unfold last night.

"We felt we wanted to show a sense of solidarity and commitment that Manchester always has.

"When the chips are down, Manchester always pulls together."

She said some of her friends felt nervous about the prospect of coming into the city on Tuesday night, adding: "I personally just want to make a stand that even if my friends felt a bit nervous, I felt it was very important to prove that I won't be beaten, intimidated.

"And also, people have lost loved ones. If it was me, I'd want to see this."

Lucy said she had friends at the concert who were "shaken up", adding: "A few of them didn't come into school."

Her mother said: "It's been a horrific day. But we all feel the same here. We're here together."

The crowds erupted into applause as the vigil began.

Senior figures including Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Speaker John Bercow joined Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham on stage.

Lord Mayor of Manchester Eddy Newman said the vigil was a chance to "express solidarity" with the victims.

He thanked the emergency services, prompting a rapturous response from the thousands of people gathered there.

Addressing the crowd, Greater Manchester Police's Ian Hopkins said: "As your Chief Constable of Greater Manchester and as a father I cannot begin to imagine how anyone can carry out such an unthinkable act - murdering 22 people and injuring 59 - and my thoughts and those of my colleague are very much with their families at this incredibly difficult time."

Mr Hopkins added: "Last night, in the most atrocious circumstances, the people of Greater Manchester showed the world how much we care.

"How much we care about each other and how much we were prepared to help those in need.

"And I've heard some tremendous stories of doctors coming in to support and police officers, ambulance workers giving up their days off turning up to help those in need."

Mr Hopkins thanked those who had worked "tirelessly" through the night, "members of the public for their solidarity" and "the rest of the world for holding us in their thoughts".

"We must all stand together and not let the terrorists defeat us, not let them stop us going about our daily business and create fear and we must all live in harmony with each other as we stand together and defeat terrorism," he said.

Belfast

Meanwhile, a silent vigil has been held in Belfast to remember the Manchester bombing victims.

A small group held posters professing "we stand together" outside the gates of City Hall.

Political and church leaders in Northern Ireland also expressed sympathy.

Amnesty International director in the region Patrick Corrigan said: "Tonight's vigil outside City Hall is really a spontaneous response by members of the local community and really it is an opportunity to stand in solidarity with the citizens of Manchester from the citizens of Belfast.

"To say we share your pain, and it is a response that is about a sense of community, a sense of humanity and the simple message tonight is, we stand together."

Campaigning in the General Election was suspended on Tuesday and the first televised debate involving Stormont's parties, scheduled for Wednesday, has been postponed.

Extra security was introduced for a show by Professor Brian Cox in Belfast's SSE Arena on Tuesday night.

As a book of condolence opened in the City Hall, Democratic Unionist leader and former Stormont first minister Arlene Foster said "terrorism must never win".

She branded the attack "indiscriminate and barbaric" and called for people to unite in condemnation of terror.

"Whilst terrorists can bring pain and grief, the kindness and generosity displayed by the people of Manchester has already shown that they will not win."

Additional reporting from Press Association

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