Eastern Michigan University students taped their mouths shut in a silent protest Thursday.
The students wrote #ChapelHillShooting across the tape in honor of the deaths of three students from the University of North Carolina.
Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were Muslim-American students at the University of North Carolina. They were shot Tuesday, Feb. 10, by their neighbor, Craig Steven Hicks, 46. The Chapel Hill police released a statement Tuesday evening citing a parking dispute as Hicks’s motivation.
EMU Junior Layali Alsada and senior Zaeem Zafar created a flyer with their perspective on the shooting and information about the victims.
Alsada and Zafar said if the shooter was not a white male the media would be focused less on the parking spot, and more on his beliefs and background, as they do with minorities in this country.
Ahmed Abbas, a graduate psychology student, helped organize the silent protest.
“There is a clear narrative to how minorities are looked at,” Abbas said. “It seems like minorities are kept aside when it comes to their voices being heard.”
The students wrote #ChapelHillShooting on tape and put it over their mouths and clothes and passed out the flyer they created.
“Before religion, before race, a family just lost three lives,” said Mohamed Nouadir, a senior majoring in political science. “They were aspiring for higher education. They were aspiring to better this nation. Beyond that is the fact that minorities today in the United States don’t have the same rights as white people. Every minority at this point either has to fend for themselves or come together and say, ‘I’m not going to accept this.’ Black lives matter, Muslim lives matter, Native American lives matter.”
Senior Nora Mattar, interior design major, said a silent protest promotes peace.
“The idea of silence at a time like this is really important,” Mattar said. “It encourages everyone in the community to think and reflect. It also eliminates acts of violence and aggression because we’re all very angry and upset. It controls our anger because we can’t yell or get upset about anything. Our strength comes from our silence. It’s very important to be a visual symbol of that and remind people that we are peaceful.”
After researching the shooting, Abbas said he was struck by the similarities between the victims and students at EMU.
“They were people who have been doing the same thing that we have been doing,” Abbas said. “If he was on this campus, we would have worked together. That part connected.”
Students from the University of Michigan gave speeches. Some of the speakers knew the victims and gave their take on the shooting.
Students here on EMU’s campus plan on continuing to raise awareness until Hick’s probable cause trial set for March 4.
“It effects non-Muslims in the reality that today it’s me, tomorrow it might be you,” Abbas said. “You should try to start supporting people who are being discriminated against now so that when the day comes and it’s you, you have a support group coming to aid you and give you assistance.”
Mattar was brought to tears when she talked about the fear she felt after hearing about the shooting.
“I fear for my sister,” Mattar said. “She is in a high school environment and there’s a lot of bullying. I know how hard it can be. Muslims and minorities are dehumanized, but we experience acts of terrorism too.”