'You can't live in fear': Defiance in EU capitals following Barcelona attacks

Across European capitals, residents say they will live their life as normal

An impromptu memorial site on Las Ramblas in Barcelona. Photo: Reuters

An impromptu memorial site on Las Ramblas in Barcelona. Photo: Reuters

Dan Creasey was in a bar close to his coffee stall in London's Borough Market when three Islamists ploughed a van into pedestrians before stabbing revellers and tourists.

Two months later, he is back at work in the 1,000-year-old market, feels "100 percent safe" and says customers have not been deterred either.

The June 3 attack on Borough Market was one of a series by Islamist militants on European tourist hotspots in the past two years, the latest in Barcelona on Thursday when a van was driven into crowds on the Ramblas boulevard, killing 14.

"My message is, don't give in. Don't be a coward. Live your life as normal,"

In European capitals that have already seen such attacks -- London, Paris and Berlin -- the mood today was one of defiance tinged with an acknowledgement that some visitors might be scared off.

"It's very scary, but at the end of the day, it's not going to deter me," said British tourist Stephen Bishop, 47, outside Paris's Bataclan Theatre where 89 people were killed when it was stormed by Islamists in 2015.

"My message is, don't give in. Don't be a coward. Live your life as normal," Bishop said.

On Berlin's Breidscheidplatz, where 12 people were killed in a truck attack on a Christmas market last year, people were philosophical.

"You can't hide," said Jutta Laggies, a tourist from the Sauerland region. "It can happen at any time and any place. The last thing to do is stop going outside just because there are attacks like this. That's when I think we mustn't let ourselves be cowed."

France has lived under a state of emergency since the 2015 attacks and Paris and London have brought in security measures to cope with incidents where vehicles are used as weapons.

EU flags fly at half mast in Brussels following the Barcelona attacks. Photo: ReutersEU flags fly at half mast in Brussels following the Barcelona attacks. Photo: Reuters

In Paris police and military units patrol the main tourist sites and permanent barriers and concrete blocks have been erected, particularly at entrances to the banks of the Seine where pedestrians gather.

Similar defences have been put up on bridges across the Thames in London and police, who still routinely do not carry guns, have stepped up armed patrols.

"The problem is that you can tighten the net, but there will always be holes. There is nothing simpler than carrying out an attack of this kind," said a Paris town hall official.

At Borough Market, where eight people died in the June attack, tourists once again crammed into the narrow alleyways of food stalls and restaurants.

The market was shut for 11 days after the attack while police gathered evidence and since it reopened there have been new bollards, more security and patrols by armed officers.

'How can you stop it?'

"I think you're safer here than anywhere else in London, said fruit stall owner Jock Stark, 68, who has worked in the market for 50 years. "How can you stop it? It's something we've got to live with nowadays."

Traders like Stark are bullish but there is a sense that things are not quite the same.

"I think people are a bit more paranoid and Saturdays are down ... the tourist days." said 19-year-old student Verity Hobbs, who was working on the family's Meat Roast stall.

"Every time something happens, even if it's here or in Europe, people become reluctant to come to places like this," she said.

Life goes on at Borough Market in London. Photo: ReutersLife goes on at Borough Market in London. Photo: Reuters

Visitors to the market were aware of what had happened but sanguine about any risks.

"It was definitely on my mind," said Emily Randell, 26, a tourist from Australia. "The chance that you're in the spot that something happens is so slim that you can't spend your life not going to places because it might happen."

For some though, the memories of June's rampage remain raw. Diana Calvo, 36, manager of the Colombian Coffee stall, saw one of the attackers with a knife and later two bodies as she fled. She spent five days shut in her home and her doctor told her not to work for two weeks.

"I cannot sleep properly," she said, adding that business was quiet and people were scared.

Whether such a reaction is the main aim of attackers is unclear. In most incidents, perpetrators have left no "martyrdom videos" to explain their motives. While Islamic State has often claimed responsibility, British security services said there was little evidence to back this up.

For those like pensioner Marion Harrison, visiting Borough Market with her family from Manchester, if the militants aim was to scare people, then they had failed.

"I didn't hesitate to come," she said. "I've been down Las Ramblas three or four times. It wouldn't stop me going again, the same as it wouldn't stop me going again to any of the other places. We're not put off. You can't live your life in fear."


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