Our answer to their violence

June 28, 2017

Robert Wilson writes from Greensboro on calls for solidarity at a recent vigil.

ON JUNE 21, around 50 community members in Greensboro, North Carolina, gathered for a vigil in memory and solidarity with the victims of a deadly string of attacks by both the right wing and the state, spanning from London to Seattle.

In the most terrifying of fashions, the middle week of June illustrated the extent to which the most vulnerable people in our society are threatened in the current political climate.

On June 13, authorities found transgender woman Josie Berrios dead, with burn marks, in an abandoned building in Ithaca, New York. June 18 brought the horrific van attack by a man in London who drove through a crowd of Muslim worshippers leaving the Finsbury Park Mosque following Ramadan prayers. The same strain of Islamophobia let a man to beat, abduct and murder 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen in Fairfax, Virginia.

And on the same day in Seattle, two police officers murdered pregnant mother of four Charleena Lyles in her apartment building in front of her children.

And this isn't to mention the horrific Grenfell Tower fire that killed over 75 working-class people in London, many of them immigrants.

Image from SocialistWorker.org

The misrepresentation in the media of these incidents and the lack of response from political leaders prompted local activists to respond quickly, and create space for people to speak out, grieve collectively and hold up the memory of the dead.

Muslim teenagers close to Nabra's age shared poetry they had written; transgender activists spoke about the violence terrorizing their community (Josie was the thirteenth trans woman murdered this year); mothers mourned the horror of Charleena's murder in front of her children; a Muslim mother pondered about how to explain Islamophobia to her daughter.

In such moments of tragedy, we are used to sensationalization by politicians and the media, and when it becomes all too easy to retreat into ourselves. The internalized rage, fear and hopelessness that seems to increase with each horrific act of violence and hate have no outlet unless we take matters into our own hands through acts of solidarity and resistance to the perpetuation of these regular occurrences.

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At the vigil, speakers came to natural conclusions that Islamophobia, police brutality, bureaucratic neglect and gender violence are not disparate forms of oppression, but inextricably linked, and mutually reinforcing. One Black Muslim speaker put it succinctly: "By appearance, I am a thug, and by name, I am a terrorist."

The vigil ended with a famous Assata Shakur chant: "It is our duty to fight. It is our duty to win. We must love and protect one another. We have nothing to lose but our chains."

It is often in moments of crisis and horror when our best qualities as people are brought to the forefront. The recent atrocities committed at the hands of the far right and the state, both in the U.S. and UK, sparked similar solidarity actions as those in Greensboro across the country and the world.

While we mourn, we must also take confidence in the fact that we are not alone, and that through active solidarity, we have the ability to fight back.

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