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2013 Woolwich Attack refers to a violent attack against British Army soldier Drummer Lee Rigby by two men in the Woolwich district of South East London, England in May of 2013.
On May 22nd, 2013, two men believed to be British Muslims of Nigerian descent ran down British Army soldier Drummer Lee Rigby in a car and proceeded to stab and hack him to death. After dragging Rigby’s body into the street, the attackers told witnesses that the killing was an act of vengeance against the British military for killing Muslims. Police arrived and shot the two men who were subsequently taken to separate hospitals in critical condition.
Drummer Lee Rigby was a 25-year-old soldier in the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers of the British Army from Middleton, Greater Manchester. After joining the Army in 2006, Rigby served in Cyprus, Germany and Afghanistan prior to becoming a recruiter in London. He was survived by his wife and two-year-old son.
That same day, a video of one of the assailants justifying his actions to eyewitnesses was uploaded to YouTube by user Alexander Wickham, which was subsequently submitted to the /r/videos subreddit where it received more than 20,900 up votes and 11,700 comments in the first 48 hours. Shortly after, the video was removed due to a copyright claim by ITV News after receiving over 2.04 million views.
""The only reason we have killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers, and this British soldier is one, is a eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. By Allah, we swear by the Almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. So what if we want to live by the Sharia in Muslim lands. Why does that mean you must follow us and chase us and call us extremists and kill us? Rather you lot are extreme. You are the ones. When you drop a bomb, do you think it hits one person or rather your bomb wipes out a whole family. This is the reality. By Allah, if I saw your mother today with a buggy I would help her up the stairs. This is my nature. But we are forced by the Qur’an in Sura at-Tawba [Chapter 9 of the Qur’an], through many, many ayah [verses] throughout the Qur’an that [say] we must fight them as they fight us, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I apologise that women had to witness this today, but in our land our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your governments. They don’t care about you. Do you think David Cameron is gonna get caught in the street when we start busting our guns? Do you think the politicians are going to die? No it’s going to be the average guy, like you, and your children. So get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so we can…, so you can all live in peace. Leave our lands and you will live in peace. That’s all I have to say. Allah’s peace and blessings be upon Muhammad."
On May 22nd, “Woolwich” became the sixth highest trending topic on Twitter in the United Kingdom.
The same day, London Mayor Boris Johnson published a tweet referring to the attack as an “unforgivable act of violence.”
This afternoon’s attack in Woolwich is a sickening deluded and unforgivable act of violence. My thoughts are with the victim and his family— Boris Johnson (@MayorofLondon) May 22, 2013
According to the Twitter analytics site Topsy, tweets containing the word “woolwich” peaked at over 407,000 mentions on May 22nd.
On May 23rd, Redditor iFlick submitted an And It’s Gone image macro to the /r/atheism subreddit, which joked about the attacker’s Muslim beliefs (shown below). Within 24 hours, the post accumulated over 17,900 up votes and 2,600 comments.
On the same day, the UpshotTV YouTube channel uploaded a response video by comedian Nabil Abdulrashid, who complained about those who blamed the tragedy on the Islam religion (shown below). On May 24th, the video was submitted to the /r/videos subreddit, where it gained upwards of 12,000 up votes and 2,700 comments in the first nine hours.
“If I’m a vegetarian and I eat 2000 hamburgers in the name of being a vegetarian, I’m still not a vegetarian extremist – because I just did something that is against the whole concept of being a vegetarian”
On the same day, The Daily Mirror released footage of the attackers charging police officers before being gunned down in the street (shown below). The men were identified as 28-year-old Michael Adebolajo and 22-year-old Michael Adebowale.
English Defense League Protests
In the week following Rigby’s murder, more than 200 Islamophobic hate crimes were reported in the area, including attacks on 10 mosques. Additionally, numerous protests were held across the country by the English Defence League (EDL), a right-wing anti-Muslim movement founded in 2009. The first of these protests (shown below) was held in Newcastle on May 25th, 2013 drawing more than 1,500 protesters and 400 counter-protestors.
On May 27th, another EDL protest was held in front of a mosque in York, but when only six people showed up, members of the mosque reportedly served tea and biscuits to the protestors, bonding over their shared distaste for extremist violence. The following day, a much larger protest attracting more than 1,000 people was held outside Downing Street, resulting in a total of 13 arrests.
On May 28th, an Anonymous YouTube account uploaded a video (shown below) announcing the launch of #OpEDL, which denounced the English Defence League as a “cult” attempting to censor British society and pledged to bring a "systematic and comprehensive decimation” to the group. The original upload received more than 98,000 views in the first 48 hours prior to its removal. Meanwhile on Twitter, approximately 300 senior members and public donors to the group were simultaneously doxed via the newly-launched Twitter accounts @OperationEDL and @Op_EDL. By May 31st, however, both feeds had been suspended and the organization’s donors list had been taken offline for security measures. Also on that same day, a hacker who goes by the handle “Cyber-Jihadi” defaced the homepage of English Defence League for a short period of time, replacing it with videos of Islamic prayers and recitals of the Quran.