Osgerby: Rising tensions in London


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Osgerby is studying abroad at City University in London.

As I walked down Pentonville Road late on the morning of Oct. 3, the morning sea mist still lightly lingered outside. I was planning to explore the famous Brick Lane Market area in London’s East End for the first time.

The Tube has become my habitual mode of transportation when traveling to the north and east neighborhoods out of sheer efficiency. Walking could easily take upwards of half an hour to neighborhoods such as Camden Town, Dalston, or Hackney, especially with the heavy tourist foot traffic in the King’s Cross sector. So I have sacrificed some sightseeing for conventional travel.

I stepped onto the 10:30 Hammersmith and City line train to Aldgate East, and as I took a seat near the exit doors, I noticed a discarded London Metro newspaper lying on the floor. Its headline read: “Iraqi PM warns of ‘imminent attack’ on New York and Paris subways.”

The article warned that experts suggest Islamic extremists could add London to their “hit list,” following the members of Parliaments’ vote later that day to potentially launch air strikes against terrorist headquarters.

Prime Minister David Cameron addressed it as a question to the Parliament of “what role [UK] armed forces should play in the international coalition to dismantle and ultimately destroy, what President Obama has rightly called, this network of death.”

Results came back with a 524 to 43 decision, involving all political parties, to proceed with “Operation Shader,” bombing specific locations in Iraq. ISIS has exploited weaknesses across Iraq and Syria to take control of considerable territory. Other nations, such as Belgium and Denmark, have also joined in the international air raids.

Cameron said this decision leads into a campaign that will last years, not just months.

What does that mean for citizens living in globally influential Western cities, such as London, Paris, or New York?

First off, I have already seen an increase in armed security officials at the entrance and exit to each Tube station I’ve been to. In the airy hallways of the Underground, there always seems to be a voice telling me “CCTV is in operation for your safety.”

However, this feels more reactionary than preventative.

A coordinated terrorist attack in 2005 showed that there were weaknesses in Underground Security and CCTV. How effective can it really be in stopping an attack beforehand now, especially without metal detectors or scanners at any point in the stations?

Couple that with the Conservative Party’s recent claims that a future conservative UK government would seek ways to ban and restrict “extremist” groups. Home Secretary Theresa May said on Sept. 30 that banning orders and “extremist disruptions” orders will appear on the political party’s 2015 election platform.

I believe there will be protests if that kind of overbearing, restrictive platform were elected. Protests can quickly become riots in major international cities.

Despite London being renowned for its safety proportionally to population, I still have my concerns that these increased international tensions will only burst at some political climax in the unforeseeable future.

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