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McGill students organize vigil for three Muslim students killed in North Carolina

McGill students gathered at a vigil last Thursday night to mourn and honor the three Muslim students who were killed in a shooting at UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The three victims, Yusor Mohammed Abu-Salha, Deah Bakarat, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, were murdered on Feb. 10 by Craig Stephen Hicks, a resident of Chapel Hill. Hicks turned himself in and was later charged with three counts of first-degree murder. The Chapel Hill police made a statement on Wednesday explaining that they are still investigating the incident, which they believed to be motivated by a parking dispute. 

Students and members of the Montreal community gathered in front of Roddick gates, and moved to stand outside of the Arts building as the vigil grew. A hundred or so people gathered to hold signs and candles in support of the Chapel Hill community. 

While not affiliated with a particular group on campus, the organizers of the vigil, Summia Saed Aldien, U2 Engineering, and Yara Hammami, U2 Arts, stated that they wanted to commemorate the victims and raise awareness within the McGill community. 

“When we heard the news we were shocked,” Hammami said. “We were also shocked that no specific organization […] took the stance and the action to do something.”

Their Facebook event quickly went viral in Montreal. As of Thursday afternoon, over 4,000 people had been invited to the event on the Facebook group.

Aldien stated that the vigil was about establishing solidarity with the three victims.

“We […] have to stand together.” Aldien said. “If we […] do not do this together, then who’s going to stand up to crimes like this that are happening on a daily basis?”

Anna Marchese, a second-year Arts student at McGill, heard about the event through Facebook and stated that she attended the event to stand in solidarity against the shooting.

“I’m here just to combat […] general populations or groups within America that feel as though this act is justified, that feel like it’s all right to attack people because they’re different,” Marchese said. “We’re here, and we’re trying to show our support for the family first and foremost.”

Alaa Moussa, a finance student at Concordia, also heard about the vigil through Facebook. Moussa criticised the media coverage of the incident.  

“From what I heard—and unfortunately there is not much serious coverage—it is probably not a parking spot issue,” Moussa said. “[Hicks] maybe hates all religions, but he killed Muslims.”

Since the shooting, various social media campaigns and public vigils have been held in solidarity with the victims and their families. Social media was also used to decry the shooting as a hate crime and criticize the media for failing to cover it adequately. #ChapelHillShooting and #MuslimLivesMatter became trending topics worldwide on Twitter for most of the week.

The organizers also emphasized that they hoped that the shooter would be brought to justice.

“There’s a sense of dehumanizing it, in a way, and it’s just that we’re trying to highlight that […] Muslim lives matter as well,” Hammami said. “There should be justice for everyone; all lives are equal no matter what, and all innocent lives should be treated [equally].” 

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