From petrol bomb to love bomb – Norwich’s response to Brexit hate crime is a message of hope for everyone

The £500 fundraiser exceeded its goal by £28,000

Only a mere few days ago The Village Shop on Magdalen Street in Norwich was the victim of a petrol bombing.

The owner of the Eastern European food store was asleep upstairs, along with her daughter, when the attack happened. Reportedly a brick was thrown through the window which was then followed by a fire starting, but luckily a nearby shop alerted the authorities and all escaped unharmed.

No motive has been clearly established yet, but many attribute it to being a hate crime due to the shop’s specific catering to the Eastern European community, which have been increasingly under attack since the result of the EU referendum leading to a 42% rise of hate crimes in England and Wales.

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As unfortunate as this occurrence is however it is not the star of the story. Instead it is the overwhelming response of Norwich that should be noted, as the day after the attack a JustGiving page was set up in order to raise a goal of £500 to assist with repairs of the store as apparently the owner did not have insurance in place for the store.

This £500 goal however was quickly dwarfed as donations flooded in from primarily the Norfolk community and amounted to £20,000 in 24 hours. The current total donated stands at £28,779 and was accompanied with a mass of comments conveying their condolences that such a thing happened and assuring that it is not representative of all of Norwich.

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Photo: Refugees Welcome Here – Norwich Group

The shop owner’s daughter replied to the outpouring of kindness from the community stating the following;

“I just want to say thank you to everyone for supporting us, I have no words to describe how happy and grateful we are.

“How I have already said in an interview, it is not about the money but the kindness of the people that support us. Definitely all the good we do in life will come back to each of us. We cannot wait to reopen the shop, hopefully in about a week. Everyone is welcomed to come and meet us.”

They have also made assurances that they will use simply what is necessary for the repairs and will donate the rest to a charity, of which is yet to be decided.

To try and gauge the reasoning behind the surge of donations, I got in contact with one donator to find out their personal motivation for supporting the store. Thomas Michael Joy, 24, had this to say;

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Thomas donated to the campaign

“I saw the link for the fundraising campaign in the comment section of a news article of Facebook. I’d not been to The Village Shop before, but I love all the multicultural options of shops down Magdalen Street.

I wanted to donate because the owners must be going through hell. They’ve temporarily lost their business and livelihood, plus they must be terrified and feel unsafe in their own home.

I’m self-employed and run my own business, and I know if I suffered something like this I would be distraught, let alone all the money I’d lose while I was unable to work.

“I obviously can’t say for sure what the motivation behind the attack was, but considering it was a shop of European origin, and the attack happened the same night as a rally in support of the EU in the city, plus a couple of weeks after the Brexit vote, I personally think it would be an awfully big coincidence if it was not motivated by xenophobia.

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Photo: Refugees Welcome Here – Norwich Group

‘This isn’t a case of simple vandalism, a broken window or graffiti. This was a petrol bomb, which possibly could have killed the residents inside. To me, that’s not a crime you commit without some strong personal conviction.”

Pic 3,4,5 – Kindly provided by ‘Refugees welcome here – Norwich group’

As if this wasn’t enough to reflect the good nature of the people of Norwich, they then went a step further as a Facebook event was created called ‘solidarity with migrants love bomb’. This aimed to reflect the love and solidarity of the community by placing paper hearts with supportive messages on them or around where fire bombings have taken place.

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Photo: Refugees Welcome Here – Norwich Group

The outpour of people that attended was phenomenal as quickly the boarded up shop became covered in paper hearts with statements such as “migrants welcome here”. Although what happened was truly unacceptable and a great blow to the community, the response truly reflects that hate will not be allowed to overcome us and perfectly exemplifies why Norwich should truly be considered “a fine city”.