A vigil was held in UEA’s square on Wednesday evening to show solidarity with the people of Manchester, following a terrorist attack which killed 22 people on Monday night.
On 22 May 2017 a nail bomb exploded outside Manchester Arena as concert-goers attending an Ariana Grande show were leaving the venue. In addition to the 22 killed, 64 people were injured.
Over 250 UEA students gathered to listen to speeches from the UEA and Norwich community and participate in a minute of silence for the victims. Candles were arranged on the ground outside Campus Kitchen to spell “MCR.”
Sean Gallagher, a first year Environmental Earth Sciences student told gathered students how he had grown up in Manchester. He said: “It’s close to me, it’s my city. In the time at university, I have never felt further from home, but I have also never been prouder of it.”
He described the events on Monday as “surreal” and encouraged fellow students to “think about it.” Mr Gallagher added, “I just mean think about the goodness. Everyone’s behind my city.”
He said: “There’s nothing more insulting than in the face of fear and hate to smile.”
Jack Robinson, Campaigns and Democracy Officer elect and current Non-Portfolio Officer, who helped organise the vigil said that UEA shares similar values of “culture, solidarity, and friendship” with Manchester.
Mr Robinson told students in the square: “Manchester’s resolve is stronger because of its people. Our message to Manchester is of love and support, here at UEA we stand with you.”
He told Concrete he had organised the vigil by initially posting on Facebook. He said that “loads of different people started getting in touch and coming together.”
— Ellie Johns (@ellieejohnss_) May 24, 2017
He told Concrete: I didn’t have any doubt that the students of UEA would come, because I think that’s who we are.”
You hear these things on Twitter and then you’re not sure what’s happening and I think you feel very powerless. You have this urge to try and do what you can. If anybody, any student from Manchester, sees this and thinks it’s helped them or come along and felt supported then that’s worth it even if it’s just one student.”
Hattie Griffiths a English Literature and History first year from Withington, South Manchester told Concrete that she was “shaking the whole time” during the vigil.
Miss Griffiths described feeling “in shock” when she heard about the attack.
She said: “I immediately called my mum and all my friends and made sure everyone was ok. It’s one of those cities where you’re going to know someone who knows someone. It’s such a big place but it’s also like a small community.”
She said: “It’s lovely to see that the rest of the country is standing with us.”
Organisers and sabbatical officers handed out posters depicting the symbol of Manchester, a worker bee, above the words “stay strong our kid.”
Moving vigil at UEA for victims of Mcr attack. My thoughts remain with the victims, their family/friends & our heroic emergency services. pic.twitter.com/6ZZor7N9no
— Clive Lewis (@labourlewis) May 24, 2017
SU Welfare Community and Diversity Officer Jo Swo said even with the “short amount of time” to organise the vigil she was “really pleased with the outcome.”
Ms Swo said she felt proud to see students attend the vigil and show solidarity to “their colleagues and friends who may have been affected by the Manchester attack.”
Local homeless support worker Holly Harvey-Free, 19, gave a speech at the vigil. She mentioned mentioned how many of those attending Monday’s concert had been children. She said: “Parents lost their babies, due to one act of per aggression and hatred.”
Ms Harvey-Free urged students to “look out for your Muslim brothers and sisters we can’t let this make us turn on one another.”
After mentioning reported incidents of Islamophobic incidents following Monday’s attack, she said that the turnout at the vigil could “give us all faith that we are a majority and that love always wins.”
Ms Harvey-Free concluded her speech with an expression of thanks to Chris Parker and Steve Jones, two homeless men who helped those injured at the scene. She urged students to visit the crowdfunding page started on Monday to provide them both with safe housing.
UEA students pay their respects to Manchester. pic.twitter.com/Jvpy1fNBDI
— Alan Finlayson (@ProfAFinlayson) May 24, 2017
Following the attack on Monday Norfolk Constabulary reassured the public over the now “critical” national threat level.
Chief Constable Simon Bailey said: “I would ask the public to remain calm but alert – if you see anything which causes you concern, then call the police immediately.”
In a statement, UEA’s Vice Chancellor David Richardson called the attack on Monday “abhorrent.”
Professor Richardson said: “I’m sure that few of us can imagine the pain that the families of those lost in yesterday’s atrocity are now feeling.”
He described UEA as “united together” in “condemning the cowardly acts witnessed by so many in Manchester.”
On Tuesday the UEA flag flew at half-mast as a sign of respect to victims.
A vigil was also held in the city shortly after the UEA gathering, organised by the local Stand up to Racism branch.