The day after the July 7 bombings I was in London, sitting on a near empty Tube train, pulling into one sparsely populated station after another. I felt afraid, as did everyone else. There was hardly any talking between us few passengers.
From somewhere inside of me came the old protest song ‘We shall not be moved.’ I sang it quietly to myself. ‘We shall not, we shall not be moved.’ The song bolstered my confidence, quietened my fear, strengthened my determination to keep travelling where the bombers had attacked. ‘Just like a tree that’s planted by the riverside, we shall not be moved.’
The thought of singing out loud came to me. I wasn’t bold enough to do it. Apart from having a notoriously bad singing voice, I worried that the scattered few passengers would think me odd.
Now, I wish I had sung out. Maybe someone would have understood. Maybe it would have helped a fellow passenger as it had done me. Maybe it would even have spread…
WE SHALL NOT, WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED.
We shall not be moved from eating out in our city centres. We shall not be moved from going to concerts and football matches. We shall not be moved from living in a free and open society. We shall not give in to the terrorists’ aim to make us terrorised. We shall be unterrorised, normal and free.
The public response after the Charlie Hebdo killings was the same. People took to the streets, holding pens. We shall not be moved from publishing and reading satire, of anything and everything.
Now the French Government is calling people to stay indoors. Communal events are closed. No street demonstrations are allowed until Thursday. Is this the right response?
I understand the need to keep people safe. Parisians must be stunned by shock. Eating out and celebrating over food could feel disrespectful to the many dead and injured.
Those who need to stay at home and mourn must feel able to do so. But, please, let those who want to go out, who want to find and create solidarity, who want to sing ‘We shall not be moved…’ also do so, as they did in Paris and other towns at the beginning of this year.
The friendly football match between England and France on Tuesday will go ahead, say the FA and their French counterparts. I will be there. Maybe the stadium will resound, maybe even in French as well as English: ‘We shall not, we shall not be moved!’ ‘Nous restons, nous restons en place!’