ON THE BOXING DAY KNIFE INCIDENT ON LONDON’S OXFORD STREET AND OTHER INCIDENTS BEFORE THAT
By Damola Awoyokun
Wednesday, December 28, 2011.
Main picture: Seydou Diarrassouba, the young man who was stabbed to death over sneakers on Boxing Day on London's Oxford Street in the full glare of hundreds of people. Several young Black men have been killed by other young Black men in Britain in 2011.
On Wednesday, 17 August, 2011, around 1640hrs, I was on my way to Bond Street station to honour an urgent appointment when I heard a deafening shriek of ladies. I turned around to see a clearly overpowered boy laying on the pedestrian walkway repeatedly stabbed in throat by another boy. Blood was gushing. Quick, I leapt to pushed away the boy opening up a gut (hereinafter Boy A), held him by right hand still in possession of the weapon. It was a knife with a 50cm flick-able one-sided razor edge. While still struggling hard to physically restrain him, I contemplated giving him a swift rib jab to dispossess him of the knife. I advised myself against this so as not to see me as his enemy also.
Then, the overpowered boy (Boy B) laying in his own pool of blood stood up, and started charging towards us with firm steps and flaming eyes. His left hand loosely closed around his bleeding throat while the other hand wrapped tightly around his own knife. I started shouting at the spectators for help. Help! Help or call the police! Help! None assisted. None, including the security guards of the departmental stores and also Officer Fenwick-Wilson whom Evening Standard and the Daily Mail lionised as using his Afghanistan “battlefield skills to save knife victim.” I didn’t want to let go of Boy A, at the same time, I was giving undue advantage to boy B who wanted to capitalise on my reining in to finish him off once and for all. So I tugged Boy A to run: Run! Run! I myself bolted lest Boy B decided to punish me for emancipating his prey.
To my chagrin, boy A did not bolt, instead, both boys re-engaged themselves in a full-fledged knife fight. They seemed bent on a brutal fatality. The shrieking and “horrified” Oxford street crowd stood by in the lovely weather; they definitely did not turn away. They had even swollen magnetically in volume. I went back into the eye of the storm to quell the knife combat.
Spruced up in white T-shirt, army fatigues, a beret and a pinned red and blue feather, Officer Francis Fenwick-Wilson only joined when the eye of the storm had dissipated and Boy A, the gut opener, had melted out sight. On retrieving my bag, face cap and sunshades, “You have done well” afghan war veteran remarked which I of course ignored. He became active when I went to see Boy B sitting on the display window of one of the stores already being tended to by two other blokes, one in a cream-coloured rubber gloves.
The soldier squatted before the boy to add his voice: ‘Firmly press down the wound. Apply pressure.’ He was discreet not to touch his blood. Had any of the duelling boys had any blood related disease like HIV, I would have been infected because not only was my navy-blue top and jeans pants drenched in blood, I received some cuts below my left eye and right arm from the same knife that did the stabbing. My right elbow and my lower back are still paining me because while boy A was struggling to set himself free of my restraint, he hit me against the tree and the red and white construction balustrades on Oxford Street.
I went back to my place of work nearby to wash myself and change my bloodied clothes (which I still have). On coming back to the scene, I was repulsed by what I saw that I left immediately to honour my appointment. First, I was relieved that Boy B was receiving professional care from ambulance services, that the police became conspicuous in large numbers. However some from the crowd once spectators were already giving interviews with leisure and glee yet when I was calling for help nobody budged. The scene was robbed of its tragic character, its sober reflection capacity and turned into a photo opportunity and a reality TV entertainment.
We cannot build a decent society when an ever-growing number of our youth validate such an utter disregard for human life. During this almost-fatal duel, neither boy A, nor Boy B, showed any emotion whatsoever. In fact when I struggled to physically restraining Boy A from stabbing the other to death, he told me, ‘let me go,’ in a cool, calm and composed voice. When two other men including the Sapper Fenwick-Wilson were ministering to boy B, despite the gaping knife cut running its course from the back of his left ear through his lower jaw and the upper neck disclosing the white tissue within, this boy did not show any sign of pain. None. He was quite cool with it. How would force of conscience take root in young people who are so insensate even to their own pain? Violence turns anybody subjected to it into a thing, Simone Weil affirmed in her great essay The Illiad, or The Poem of Force. With ten teenage knife murders this year in London alone and just ten days after the infernal youth riots, how would conscienceless things not see merit in destroying the things of others?
Damola Awoyokun is a London-based writer.