Monday’s bombings shocked Americans as they struggled to comprehend just how many tragedies they could endure. After months of shootings and political turmoil, a terrorist attack was the last thing anyone expected. But if the threats surrounding former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s funeral have any bearing in reality, it would not be out of the ordinary for Americans to expect more turmoil on TV, not less.
Thatcher and her friend, President Ronald Reagan, pushed an uncompromising view of free market capitalism that provoked intense backlash on both sides of the pond. Although she left power in 1990, the Iron Lady's sting on politics has left hatred in the streets of London to this day. Almost immediately after Thatcher’s death, celebrations rang out across the country. On Saturday, multiple groups critical of Thatcher coordinated a demonstration in Trafalgar Square.
British officials are taking threats of violence seriously. Police even went so far as to pre-emptively raid those who might pose a significant threat at the funeral. The raids resulted in a number of arrests for unrelated offenses such as drug possession.
The arrests highlight British officials’ fear over the political nature of this event. The Iron Lady’s funeral is reportedly the largest security operation since last year’s Olympics and the largest funeral since Winston Churchill’s in 1965. With Britain paying about half of the £10 million funeral cost, the event is drawing criticism for honoring such a controversial figure at such a high price. Officials are planning to erect thousands of steel barriers to protect the late Baroness and her mourners, as multiple groups have already threatened to demonstrate their distaste for Thatcher in some way.
Among the mourners are prominent American politicians like Henry Kissinger, Newt Gingrich, and Dick Cheney. The presence of foreign dignitaries at the event has raised the prospect for political violence. Thatcher’s highly-televised funeral could be leveraged by terrorist groups to instigate fear against those who share her politics.
Specifically, British authorities fear attacks from terrorist organizations during the highly publicized even. The Irish Republican Army (IRA), in particular, has a history of intense opposition to the former prime minister. The IRA famously attempted to assassinate Thatcher in a hotel on October 12, 1984. Thatcher later denounced the attack as an attempt to cripple [Britain’s] democratically-elected government.” That is the scale of the outrage in which we have all shared.
Although everything seems to be going smoothly, terrorists or demonstrators could leverage this week in an attempt to tarnish Thatcher’s legacy. If Thatcher were still alive, she would most likely respond to threats of terrorism as she did after the Brighton bombing in 1984: “[A]ll attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail.”