lindt cafe sydney memorial

This is not a post about design, but spontaneous place-making by the united spirit of the people of a city. Last Monday 15th December at 9;45am Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Martin Place, Sydney was laid siege by a deranged lone gunman claiming Islamic ideology as his motives. He was an outcast of the Islamic community.  All café patrons inside were taken hostage for 17 hours and the siege ended at 2;15 am with the deaths of Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, RIP, (and the gunman).

I was deeply moved by this barbaric act in the civic and financial centre of Sydney, as was the whole of Sydney and Australia. This is a place I pass every day, as I cycle or train to work. Martin Place is a pedestrian mall and the heart of our city.  What started as one simple floral tribute to the bravery and memory of Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, created an immediate and overwhelming floral shrine of deep respect,  and community support united grief for the families of the deceased and living victims of the Siege. By the time I visited just 11 hours after the violent end, all the flower stalls had sold out and the memorial was growing fast. The police were allowing people very close to the siege site to grieve.

Tori Johnson, the Lindt café manager heroically gave his life trying save his café patrons. The gunman promised all would be dead by dawn. After already being beaten by the gunman Tori tried to wrestle his weapon away, as some of the patrons fled through an exit, which resulted in his and Katrina’s murder and the storming of the building by tactical response.

The community response was so overwhelming and you could feel the collective emotion. The silence and tears palpable. By Friday Police had pulled back the barricades to just a few metres from the building’s Deco façade to allow the public to pay respects.

What is remarkable is that  the gunman’s claims of fighting for Islam could have easily divided our nation spiritually, racially and ethically, but it did the exact opposite. “I’ll  Ride with You” hashtag was immediately created by a member of the public to encourage commuters to project any potential racial attacks on Islamic women on public transport. It now means so much more. Religious leaders gathered during the siege across the country to demonstrate unity and support for Islam. Then the people of all spiritual beliefs and ethnicity of the city flowed in, (and still are) paying their tribute to the brave souls. This terrible event has raised awareness that these extremists are not followers of the teachings of Islam, and demonstrated the collective faith of the people of all beliefs in a city, in unity against extremist violence and terrorism.

Images as credited.

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