Thousands of Manchester residents gathered in the centre of the northern English city on Tuesday in a show of defiance against a suspected suicide bomber who killed 22 people, including children, in an attack at a crowded concert hall. The vigil, held in warm evening sunshine in front of the Town Hall, drew representatives of different religions who, one by one, condemned Monday evening’s bombing, which ripped through a crowd leaving a show by U.S. singer Ariana Grande.
Members of the city’s Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Sikh communities said they wanted to show that Manchester, while shocked, would not be cowed.
“It was incredibly emotional … for us especially as Muslim citizens,” said Muhammad Khursheed, an imam of a mosque in the Manchester suburb of Hulme. “We will stand together in spite of oppression, terrorism. A strong, powerful message today.”
British police on Tuesday identified the suicide bomber as 22-year-old Salman Abedi but gave no further details. U.S. security officials, citing British intelligence officials, said Abedi was born in Manchester to Libyan parents.
After speeches by officials, people attending the vigil gathered in small groups to talk among themselves. Some students took turns to hug a woman dressed in a burka.
“Together. Unified,” Daniel Liptrott, a 45 year-old businessman said when asked how the vigil made him feel. “A single act of terrorism isn’t going to break that.”
After a moment of silence, when many wept, the crowd broke into repeated chants of “Manchester, Manchester.”
A placard read: “Hate will never tear us apart”, alluding to the song “Love will tear us apart” by Joy Division, one of Manchester’s best known music groups.
Fans of the city’s rival soccer teams Manchester United and Manchester City stood together at the protest.
A local poet, Tony Walsh, read a poem from the steps of the Town Hall to the crowd which drew loud cheers and applause.
“There’s hard times again in these streets of our city, but we won’t take defeat and we don’t want your pity, because this is the place where we stand strong together with a smile on our face, Mancunians forever,” Walsh said.