It was a typical Saturday afternoon on April 24, 1999, in London’s East End when a sports bag was spotted in Hanbury Street. What happened next would change the lives of many forever.
Brick Lane, a vibrant and multicultural area known for its famous curry houses, was rocked by a bomb that injured 13 people. It was one of three attacks carried out by David Copeland, a far-right extremist, over the course of two weeks.
The attacks were carried out deliberately in areas that were popular with the black, Asian and LGBTQ+ communities. Copeland’s goal was to incite fear and tension within the diverse communities of London.
At around 5.45pm on a Saturday afternoon, eagle-eyed member of the public spotted an abandoned sports bag in Hanbury Street and took it to the nearest police station, in Brick Lane.
The station was closed, so he put it into his car boot – where it exploded just moments later. Police believe that the bomb exploding in the boot, rather than in the street, saved lives.
The 13 people injured in the bombing were taken to nearby hospitals, where they were treated for injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to burns and shrapnel wounds.
In the aftermath of the attack, police launched a massive investigation, eventually leading to Copeland’s arrest. He was found guilty of three counts of murder and planting the bombs, earning him six life sentences in 2000.
Today, Brick Lane remains a thriving and diverse area, a symbol of the resilience of the East End community. However, the anniversary of the attack serves as a reminder of the devastating impact of extremist views and the importance of remaining vigilant against all forms of prejudice.
As we remember the victims and their families on this 23nd anniversary of the Brick Lane bombing, let us also remember that we must never be complacent in our efforts to combat extremism and promote unity and understanding in our communities.