Over 100 students gathered Monday night for a vigil on the UC Patio Monday night following Friday’s mosque attack in New Zealand, in which 50 people died and another 50 were injured. The vigil, which was hosted by the Arab Student Union, started on a unified note but began to become more and more politically charged as students came up to speak during the open mic.
There was a noted security presence at the vigil, with officers from the University’s Campus Security and the Dearborn Police Department present. During the vigil on the Ann Arbor campus last Saturday, students were ordered by police to clear the area after police received reports of a potential active shooter, reports that were later found to be a result of a group of girls popping balloons and screaming. Campus Safety Police Chief Tim Wiley says that Campus Safety wasn’t anticipating any serious threat, but wanted to show support.
“Our goal is to support the events here so that they stay safe and secure. As part of the University and as part of the student body, we want to make sure we’re a visible part as well,” Wiley says. “All of our fellow officers here, many of which wanted to volunteer their time and just be around for this.”
The event was also attended by University leadership, including Chancellor Domenico Grasso and Dean of Students Amy Finley.
ASU President and event organizer Lynn Kabani started the event thanking everyone for coming and passed out candles for the participants. She urged for unity in the face of Friday’s tragedy.
“Our different cultures shouldn’t tear us part, it should bring us together,” she said, before prompting people to begin lighting their candles.
The event featured imams, or Muslim leaders, from the nearby community. Imam Muhammad Hassan urged people to see the commonalities rather than the differences.
“We are all united under the same umbrella, the same common denominator of humanity,” Hassan said. “And it should not take, God forbid, something to happen to our beloved one for us to be furious and demand justice.
It was when the open mic session started and student speakers began to speak that politics became more involved in the conversation. Students began criticizing the White House and President Donald Trump for their alleged Islamophobia and held them accountable for the events in New Zealand. Allusions were made to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, conflicts in the Middle East, and at one point a student went up and blamed Saudi Arabia for being “a thorn in the side of the world.”
The final student to speak urged students to put aside political conflicts and focus more on the humanitarian side of the issue.
“I heard a lot about political things and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and our conflict with our president. And while those are important points to make, I walked into this vigil with one thing: my life could have been taken,” the student said. “This is a humanitarian thing, it’s not a political war that we’re fighting.”
Some students took issue with the open mic part of the event.
“Overall the vigil and speakers of the vigil focused on the horrible act in just human nature and how were all equal as humans. I think the only problem was allowing students attending the event to speak because that’s when it became political.”