Hare Krishnas Undeterred

"Calm Replaces the Crowds"

BY: Mark Tran, Guardian Unlimited

Tottenham Court following evacuation. Photograph: Martin Godwin/Guardian

Jul 22, LONDON (GUARDIAN UNLTD.)— On an ordinary afternoon, Tottenham Court Road would be full of tourists and Londoners looking for bargains at its furniture and electronics shops.

But this was not an ordinary day. Warren Street tube station, at the end of the road, had been closed in a bomb attack - two weeks to the day after four suicide blasts on London's transport network killed 56 people.

As a result, Tottenham Court Road, on this bright sunny afternoon, looked like a ghost town. Police had evacuated virtually the whole length of the street, sealing off the side roads with blue and white tape.

The only people allowed on to the street were a gaggle of reporters, who were at first stationed outside the upmarket Heals furniture store, opposite Goodge Street tube station.

As a helicopter clattered overhead in a gloriously blue sky, the police moved away the few stragglers, bellowing: "Can you move back, please, for your own safety."

One unfortunate merchant had to dismantle his stall - an elaborate structure full of suitcases, handbags and wallets - after the police told him to close up.

Eventually, officers allowed the reporters to move closer to the Warren Street, where a man had earlier been seen running towards the nearby University College Hospital.

Although the streets were empty, people had stayed inside their shops and offices. Three women employees at the travel agent Going Places stood behind the glass doors, looking out at the unfamiliar scene.

Next door, office workers stood on a balcony as police cars and fire engines tore past, sirens wailing.

By around 4pm, Tottenham Court Road began to return to normal. The shops started reopening and the traffic returned, although police kept the street sealed off around 200 yards from Warren Street tube.

Gilly, whose husband Steve runs the nearby Kingsley photographic shop, said police had asked them to close up and stay inside at around lunchtime.

"I had never heard so many sirens - gosh, it was loud," she said. "The police pulled over all the buses and evacuated them.

"It's sad for humankind, it's happening again. I hadn't thought it would happen so quickly, just after two weeks. But why should any of us be surprised?"

Gilly said there had no significant drop in takings since the attacks of two weeks ago and, as she was speaking, a group of Hare Krishna, chanting and banging on their tambourines, walked past.

She laughed and said: "Look at that. That is so London. These terrorists are bonkers if they think they can make a difference. Not in London they won't."


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