NYC vigil for Tucson killings

January 31, 2011

NEW YORK--In the wake of the shooting tragedy in Tucson, Ariz., some 75 people came together on January 10 to hold "Progressives Against Hatred: A Response to the Tragedy in Tucson."

The event was a stark contrast to the response of Republican politicians like Sarah Palin and right-wing pundits Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly. These figures defended their right-wing rhetoric, while simultaneously claiming to be victims of a heartless left-wing establishment that unfairly blamed them for the shootings, which left six people dead and more than a dozen wounded. The likes of Palin refuse to accept that their right-wing hate speech was responsible in any way for Jared Loughner opening fire.

But as activist and event organizer Yetta Kurland said: "In the context of hatred and vitriol that has arisen over the past two years, such an attack was predictable and almost inevitable. We have to find a way to turn our sadness and our anger into positive action."

Another organizer, Josh Wellman, added, "It's important that we find a way toward a more civil discourse, and it's also important that we not pretend that it's 'both sides' engaging in the same level of extreme rhetoric. Only one side is talking about 'second amendment remedies' and urging constituents to be 'armed and dangerous.'"

Unfortunately the tragedy in Tucson seemed all too familiar to recent acts of hate here in New York City.

This past summer and fall, New York City's Muslim, immigrant and LGBT communities faced an increase in hate crimes, fueled by same "rhetoric" spewed and paid for by Fox News, which pays millions of dollars every year to pundits like Beck and O'Reilly--and now Tea Party toiler Sarah Palin.

The right-wing discourse, for example, led to a Muslim taxi cab driver being brutally attacked by an Islamophobic passenger, who stabbed him in the back of his neck. Over the summer and fall, there were a number of instances of gay bashings and of LGBT teens committing suicide because of bullying.

Many at the January 10 vigil supported stronger gun control laws as part of the solution, but a more effective response to the right was last year's 200-strong March Against Hate, organized by an ad-hoc committee involving 38 individuals and organizations that came together to protest Fox News. The protest focused on Fox hosts Beck and O'Reilly, as well as a Tea Party candidate running in the New York governor's race.

The message of the March Against Hate and the vigil earlier this month--that the right has to be challenged through speakouts, protests and marches--is more urgent then ever.

Further Reading

From the archives