Over 80 students from across the
Claremont Colleges held a vigil last night to commemorate three slain Muslim
family members who were shot and killed near the University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill on Feb. 10.
The suspect, Craig Hicks, 46, was
arrested on charges of first-degree murder after turning himself in Tuesday
afternoon. He is accused of killing married couple Deah Barakat, 23, and Yusor
Abu-Salha, 21, along with Yusor’s sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19.
While police claim that the murders were
a result of an ongoing parking dispute, Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha—father of two of
the victims—told the News & Observer that the shootings were “hate crimes,”
citing previous suspect encounters between his family members and Hicks.
According to a co-organizer of the vigil Lizzy Freedman PZ
’18, the vigil’s main goal was to “show solidarity with Muslim students in our
community,” as well as raise awareness about the family’s death.
The vigil was promptly organized on Wednesday
afternoon once news of the murders spread across the country to Claremont. Held at Pitzer
College’s Pellissier Fountain, the vigil began at around 10:30 p.m. and lasted
until midnight. Attendees lit candles and stood in silence for three minutes in honor of the
three victims, followed by an outspoken reflection of the events that occurred.
“It was that hauntingly beautiful scene of just a circle of flickering candles,” Hannah Sands SC ’17 said.
5C students and local community members shared their reactions to the shooting and violence against Muslims. Some attendees shared personal experiences, while others read aloud from a piece they had written.
Sands described how the vigil led to a discussion of how Muslim students don’t always feel safe or supported in the practice of their religion, despite the purported cultural awareness across the 5Cs.
“One of the Muslim students said that she was really shocked by how many students there were at the vigil,” Sands said. “It made me really upset, to [know that students] feel like you’re on a campus where people wouldn’t care if someone from your faith was murdered.”
Students also denounced national media outlets
for a lack of coverage of the murders.
“It reminded me how important it is to center Muslim students in this conversation and in this campus to make them feel like they’re safe,” Sands said.
This article was updated Feb. 13. It originally indicated that the Lizzy Freedman was the organizer of the vigil.