Manchester defiant at vigil for attack victims

Around 6,000 people gathered in central Manchester Wednesday to unite and remember the victims of the arena the night before. VIDEO: REUTERS
A minute's silence is held during the Queen's Garden Party at Buckingham Palace to remember those killed in the Manchester bombing on Monday. VIDEO: REUTERS
A woman takes part in a vigil for the victims of an attack on concert goers at Manchester Arena.
A woman takes part in a vigil for the victims of an attack on concert goers at Manchester Arena.PHOTO: REUTERS

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) - Chants of "Manchester! Manchester!" rang out on Tuesday (May 23) as thousands gathered for a multifaith vigil in the city centre to remember the victims of the deadly suicide attack claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

Striking a note of defiance, people massed outside the northwestern English city's Victorian town hall to pray for the 22 killed and dozens injured in the bombing at a pop concert late on Monday.

The vigil was attended by Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Sikh leaders, and drew on the strength of a city that is synonymous with the Industrial Revolution, music and football.

British and English flags flew at half-mast above the town hall, a grand neo-Gothic building in the heart of central Manchester.

The sun-drenched Albert Square filled early, with people climbing atop the steps of statues.

Senior figures filled the stage, among them John Bercow, the speaker of parliament's lower House of Commons; interior minister Amber Rudd; and opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The crowd listened silently to the speeches, though there were huge cheers when speakers praised the emergency services, and urged people to defy terrorism by standing together.

"Today is a day that we all hoped and prayed we would not ever see," Manchester police chief Ian Hopkins told the crowd.

"I cannot begin to imagine how anyone could carry out such an unthinkable act.

"We must all stand together and not let the terrorists defeat us.

"We must all live in harmony with each other as we stand together to defeat terrorism."

Poet Tony Walsh recalled the city's history in a poem entitled This Is The Place, which drew huge cheers as he recounted the gritty attitude that made the city a heartland of industrial and cultural creativity.

In a poignant moment, he referred to the "Mancunian way to survive" and "northern grit", and said: "In the face of a challenge we always stand tall." After a minute's silence to remember the victims, chants of "Manchester! Manchester!" rolled around the crowd in a city wedded to its world-famous football teams, Manchester United and Manchester City.

'THE MADNESS AND THE SCREAMING'

Chris Addy, 30, a stage worker who attended the vigil, was on the stage at the Manchester Arena during the Ariana Grande concert on Monday when the suicide bomber attacked.

"I just heard loud bangs, but most of us just thought something had dropped, a piece of equipment," he told AFP.

"It was only after the madness and the screaming that everyone realised what had actually happened."

Some 59 people were taken to hospital after Monday's attack at the arena.

A simple "I love Manchester" sign, written as "I heart MCR", has mushroomed across the city, appearing on billboards and even replacing the houses in estate agency windows.

A mother and daughter standing outside the town hall both held up the sign.

"I'm a parent of two teenage girls, who have been to concerts many times at the MEN Arena, and it's just feeling for the parents last night, seeing the scenes," said Elizabeth Littlewood, 44.

"Manchester's been torn apart again but then, it just shows today we're going to come back together again.

"We've felt numb all day."

 

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