It took just six minutes for tickets to sell out for “One Love,” tonight’s all-star benefit concert for victims.
That there is such demand for the “One Love” concert shows that the suicide bomber, who killed 22 people and injured 116 in last month’s attack on Manchester Arena at an Ariana Grande concert, failed to dampen the spirits and enthusiasm of concertgoers or deter crowds from attending high-profile events in confined spaces.
Yet fans looking forward to attending tonight gig would be superhuman not to feel a twinge of anxiety that the venue might once again prove a target for terrorists, especially in view of the terrorist atrocities in London Saturday night.
Parents will no doubt reassure themselves that lightning rarely strikes twice. However, the truth is that the dreadful events of May 22 will have a significant impact on security at music gigs and will affect all those who attend them. Armed police; long queues for airport style security checks; and new restrictions on what can be brought into arenas are all likely to become the norm.
All fans entering the Old Trafford cricket ground for tonight’s concert will be searched. Authorities have asked people not to bring bags and there will be additional security checks taking place in the general area.
Event Commander chief superintendent Stuart Ellison has said, “We have dedicated resources, with a significant number of officers from the Greater Manchester Police and colleagues from other forces, some of which will be armed.”
Manchester is not alone in ramping up its concert and event security. The worldwide reaction to the suicide bombing by British Muslim Salman Ramadan Albedi has been to tighten security. Some 1,200 security officials were patrolling the Rock Am Ring concert in Germany this weekend, which was evacuated due to “concrete leads” of a possible terror threat.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Americans may experience increased security at public events. In Singapore, organizers of Britney Spears’ June concerts said new measures were being implemented, and Hong Kong has gone a step further for Ariana Grande’s September concert by introducing airport-style metal detectors.
Arenas will resemble rings of steel with numerous layers of armed police officers and private security details causing long queues for the public.
Since 2001, international terrorists, dominated by Al Q’aeda and ISIS, have repeatedly targeted vulnerable civilian locations across the world. For security experts, it’s a game of cat and mouse to foil further attacks.. After 9/11 and Richard Reid’s attempted ‘shoe bomb,’ airport security now combines advanced intelligence procedures for background checks, high-tech scanning systems, behavioral analysis software and, of course, removing your shoes to pass reach the departure gates.
With terrorist methods evolving from 9/11 to ISIS marauding gunmen in shopping centers and hotel resorts, security services worldwide have been stretched to the limit. More recently we have seen ‘lone wolf’ acts from individuals self-radicalized online, using everyday items such as kitchen knives and vehicles as instruments of terror.
As methods have evolved so has the way in which attacks are planned. Use of encrypted messaging apps have made detection of plots by intelligence agencies increasingly difficult.
In the past two years, we have seen attacks in public events ranging from sporting events like the Boston Marathon and a Stade de France soccer match to nightclubs and concerts such as the Bataclan in Paris and Pulse nightclub in Orlando to Christmas festivals in Berlin.
The response has been to dramatically increase layers of security at all these types of venue, resulting in longer queues and more public searches for the public.
The Manchester attack represents a depressing new low: a deliberate assault on innocent young people and children enjoying music. It also represents an act of desperation by Islamic terrorists. They have been hit hard in Syria, Iraq and Libya, losing funds and recruits. Many have predicted a blowback of terrorism across Europe as ISIS loses further territory. Meanwhile Al Q’aeda has become resurgent in Yemen.
Western security services have actually improved, foiling numerous plots. But Manchester and London will not be the last attacks and it’s now natural to question both which public event or venue will be targeted next and whether it is safe to go out anymore. This is exactly the type of fear and anxiety that Islamic extremists are seeking to sow as they attack Western values.
What is likely to happen next? After any attack, a government must be seen to act by introducing new security measures. First it was airports, then sports stadiums and now many of these measures will now be rolled out to concerts and festivals.
The reality is that the greatest act of defiance against terrorism is for the public to keep calm and carry on attending sports matches, concerts and festivals.
The One Love concert is exactly the right response since it shows terrorists they will never prevail.
James Glancy CGC is CEO of the international security consultancy AnotherDay. As a former British Royal Commando, he was awarded Britain’ second highest gallantry medal, the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for leading operations in Afghanistan.