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2001-09-17

First Racist Revenge Killings, as Mourners and Activists Hold a Vigil in Union Square

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Two Asian men were murdered this weekend in what appear to be the first racist revenge killings for last week’s attacks. One was a Pakistani Muslim, the other an Indian Sikh who may have been attacked because his beard and turban reminded his attackers of Osama bin Laden, the man who has been accused of being behind last week’s attacks. Meanwhile, at a vigil held in Union Square in New York on Friday night, mourners and peace activists spoke out against anti-Arab violence. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Two Asian men were murdered this weekend in what appear to be the first racist revenge killings for last week’s attacks. One was a Pakistani Muslim, the other an Indian Sikh who may have been attacked because his beard and turban reminded his attackers of Osama bin Laden, the man who has been accused of being behind the two attacks.

In Pleasant Grove, a middle-class suburb of Dallas, Texas, Waqar Hassan Choudhry was shot dead at a convenience store shortly after 10:00 p.m. on Saturday night. There was no evidence of a robbery, and local detectives told Choudhry’s family they believed his killing was motivated by blind revenge.

In Mesa, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, police reported that 52-year-old Balbir Singh Sodhi was shot dead by a white male who drove a pickup truck into Sodhi’s Chevron station and opened fire with a handgun on Saturday afternoon. That killing was apparently the opening salvo in a shooting spree that led the unnamed assailant to attack two other gas stations, at least one of which was run by men of Arab origin.

At a vigil held in Union Square in New York on Friday night, just a few blocks north of here where we’re broadcasting from, mourners and peace activists spoke out against anti-Arab violence. We go there now.

MOURNER/ACTIVIST 1: We are a loose coalition of people who came together a few days ago just in response, knowing that there was going to be a need for a long-standing ability to build a sustainable movement against potential war and also to be aware and raising awareness around anti-Arab and anti-Muslim attacks in the United States, as well. So we’re really here to try to kind of stand for three primary points. One is to talk about creating space to mourn the victims, at the same time as standing for peace and being in a position to talk about violences happening in the United States right now against people who are perceived to be Arab or Muslim and other immigrants, and in addition, to really begin building a movement to oppose the huge war effort that’s clearly about to begin.

MOURNER/ACTIVIST 2: I have seen that life persists in the midst of destruction; therefore, there must be a higher law than the law of destruction. That was Gandhi. And I was overcome with sadness, of course, like everybody is. And I’m missing a friend, a captain in a fire department, waiting to hear. He’s still unaccounted for. And I’m sitting next to a complete stranger, and just reached out and put my hand on her shoulder. And her name is Ellie. She’s right here. She’s standing up right now. And we hugged each other. And that’s sort of what symbolizes this thing for me, is people just that would never talk or deal with each other are just—we are all completely connected at the deepest level. It’s astounding and inspiring. And there are a lot of people carrying signs of, you know, "violence is not the answer," you know, promoting peace, this time of this nightmare, and people singing, which is amazing. There was a beautiful woman just singing before, a spiritual hymn. And I think that it’s really wonderful that we’re all coming together and helping each other and talking to each other and expressing our anger and our grief and our hopelessness and our hope.

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