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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 July 2005, 20:45 GMT 21:45 UK
Stockwell's sadness and unreality
By Clare Babbidge
BBC News in Stockwell

A rainy, grey Sunday in south London but after police shot dead a man in an incident they are now calling a "tragedy", the atmosphere felt far from normal.

Maria Arbelaez said she now feels less secure in London

The streets of Stockwell are quiet, with a few people waiting for buses and others striding under umbrellas towards the Tube station.

At the station itself, where Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes was killed by police hunting Thursday's would-be bombers, the atmosphere was muted, a mixture of sadness and anger.

Scotland Yard has now said Mr Menezes, who lived in nearby Tulse Hill, was completely unconnected to the attacks.

"Stop the killing" said a large banner, next to it was a photograph of the 27-year-old electrician.

Underneath, in a grim reminder of several other recent memorial sites in London, flowers had been laid.

One said: "For the family of an innocent man." Another in Portuguese offered condolences from a "Brazilian friend". The lights of several television cameras lit up the small gathering.

A young policeman and a female officer stood quietly apart from the action, maintaining an awkward police presence.

People in Stockwell spoke of their sadness and confusion.

"It doesn't feel that it seems real," said Manuel Caires.

Mr Caires, 23, who lives in nearby Clapham Park, came to the UK from Portugal 15 years ago.

The Stockwell area is home to a small Portuguese and Brazilian community.

I was very proud of England's security. I felt secure. But not now, I am very scared
Maria Arbelaez

Mr Caires said the London bombings had left him unnerved.

He said: "I feel a bit scared in a way, more from the affect of the terror than of the police themselves.

"A lot of what happened on Friday, hasn't left me afraid of the police, because if police asked me to stop for any reason, I would have stopped."

Mr Caires said he did not know how the shooting would affect community and police relations.

"The relationship between the police and the people has always been a bit tense in this area," he said.

He felt this was partly due to misunderstandings between police and the large immigrant population.

Banner outside Stockwell Tube station
Words and flowers expressed the community's shock and sadness

Police presence

Rosevaldo Reis, 40, said the shooting had sent shockwaves through the large Latin American community living in south London.

He said Mr Menezes had been part of that community.

"I am just not sure what was on his mind, I have no idea why he ran," he said.

Mr Reis, of Stockwell, said he now had concerns for other Latin Americans.

He said: "Latin people are all dark skinned, but I don't think we should be judged by that and get stopped.

"I do understand that now in London the police are under pressure because of the attacks, and because they need to find those responsible, but I don't think they should get paranoid," he said.

Mr Reis said his 73-year-old mother, who lives in Stockwell was now scared to leave the house.

Mr Reis's brother Railton, 41, said he had been questioned and searched by police for about an hour at a station about a month ago and it had left him upset.

Mr Reis, a school teacher, said: "I do have respect for the police here, but that left me very disappointed."

Marcos da Silva,
Marcos da Silva used to go to bars with his friend Mr Menezes

Maria Arbelaez, from Colombia, has been living in south London for 20 years and says she has been left very shocked by the shooting.

She said: "I was very proud of England's security. I felt secure. But not now, I am very scared.

"We are not sure what will happen next. I have a son and maybe he would run if in that situation and get shot."

Call to unite

However, Marcos da Silva, who was a friend of Mr Menezes, called for the community to unite.

"I am feeling very sad," he said. "It is a big mistake. I do trust the police and this mistake can happen anywhere. I think everyone can live together."

Mr Silva, 33, said he knew Mr Menezes through the Brazilian community based around Brixton.

Banner at Stockwell station
A banner called for peace, strength and prayer

He said for two years they had been friends, often going to a Brazilian bar in Oxford Street together.

"He was a very nice person," he said.

Mr Silva said the community would wait to see the results of the investigation into his friend's death.

"I am hoping the community will now work well together, Muslims, Christians and all religions, all come together," he said.

'Close to home'

Angela Wilson, 41, said she had lived in the area "for most of her life" and had seen community relationships improve.

"The whole terror threat is unnerving and could make people more suspicious of each other, and affect the community," she said.

Later on Sunday, the Met Police's deputy assistant commissioner visited Stockwell.

Brian Paddick said his meeting with council officials, Muslim and Latin American leaders had been "calm and positive".

His visit followed calls by local MP Kate Hoey for police reassurance after Friday's events.


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