Dozens gathered at the State Capitol on Sunday afternoon to protest white supremacy and Islamophobia following the Friday attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that left fifty dead.
“We are against racism, we are against Islamophobia, we are against anti-Semitism, and we are against occupation abroad,” Manzoor Cheema of Muslims for Social Justice told the crowd. “We need to build a united movement against all forms of oppression.”
Cheema linked recent attacks on Muslims to not just the growing threat of white nationalism but also the American military-industrial complex, which is “dropping bombs on black and brown and Muslim people,” and the occupation of Palestinian homelands.
“Today we are renewing our call for solidarity in this time of crisis,” said Chris Macon of the black youth organization Hip Hop 4 Justice. “We will renew our efforts to connect, empower, and inspire communities which act against systems which foster hatred and intolerance. Let us move forward in solidarity to end these senseless acts of violence that took innocent lives in Charleston, Pittsburg, Charlottesville and, most recently, New Zealand. The time for action is now.”
The speakers argued that these attacks weren’t isolated incidents but rather reflected attitudes demonstrated by the U.S. government. Fernando Martinez, a director at Education Justice Alliance, denounced recent U.S. immigration crackdowns and North Carolina.
“ICE is a terrorist organization,” he said. “Let me repeat that: Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a terrorist organization, and it is paid for by our tax dollars.”
Although the demonstration focused on patterns of white supremacy, the protesters still saw what happened in Christchurch as an attack on Muslims writ large.
“Oh God, we ask you to help us repel evil with good,” Imam Abdullah Khadra of Cary Masjid prayed during the protest. “To repel hate with love. To repel ignorance with knowledge. Oh God, help us to educate those ignorant extremists and fanatics who think they’re better just because of their color. Help us to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the crimes and the craziness of those fanatics.”