By Jack Pappin
According to the Seattle Police Department, on Saturday December 5 at 3:30 p.m., Hamza Warsame fell at least 60 feet from a building on the 300 block of Summit Avenue East in Capitol Hill. Warsame, a 17-year-old Rainier Beach High School student taking classes at Seattle Central College, was found by a pedestrian who called 911. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. Some students claim Warsame was murdered in a hate crime, including a Facebook group called “#Justice4Hamza.” However the true chain of events is still unclear.
Currently, the Seattle Police Department is investigating the circumstances surrounding Warsame’s death, but no official announcement has been made yet. SCC Interim President Sheila Lange is calling for patience while the community awaits further information.
More than 50 members of the Somali Student Association gathered on December 8 to plan a student-led classroom walkout and prayer circle at noon on December 9, followed by a march from the main campus to the front doors of the Seattle Police Department East Precinct. A similar event is being planned for December 10, where students will again march to express solidarity against Islamophobia.
At the December 8 meeting, the room was heavy with emotion. Some students expressed anger and confusion while others were somber. Many students called for prayer followed by activism.
“No one’s talking about it, I haven’t seen it on the news,” said Mustafa, president of the Somali Student Association (SSA). “But the real question is, what are we going to do about it? As a club, as members and students, when these kinds of things happen, we have to be together and wish for the best to happen. We should talk about it, and how we can prevent this from happening again.”
“Justice for Hamza,” said one student.
“He was my friend. He was about to graduate from high school. He was a good person,” said a close relation to Warsame. “I was shocked. He was an active member of the community. He was just about to finish the Qur’an.”
Many SSA members claimed they had experienced public xenophobia because of their race and religious beliefs. Even those who remained quiet nodded in agreement. Additionally, students criticized the SCC administration for its slow response time.
“There needs to be action,” said one student. “This is such a tragedy. People on Twitter are saying this was a suicide. It’s not a suicide, we know that. We need to make a statement. All black people are under attack. All Muslim people are under attack. This is America 2015, nothing’s changed. Our lives are still in danger.”
Students at the SSA meeting expressed concern and worry for their collective future safety on campus. One student explained that he thought Muslim women would soon become targets because many wear the hijab, a veil that covers the head. Furthermore, students expressed their frustrations with local media and news outlets because of a perceived lack of empathy toward the Muslim community.
“We’re a target,” said one student. “To them, our blood is like water. They do not care about us.”
On December 9 at noon, hundreds of people attended a Salah prayer service held in the atrium at SCC to honor Warsame’s memory. Afterward, more students and staff members joined a peaceful demonstration that started on campus, paused at the Seattle Police Department East Precinct, wound its way back to campus and into the president’s office before ending outside the main campus. Students chanted, “Hamza! Hamza!” and “Whose lives matter? Black lives Matter!” Posters and banners read, “Justice 4 Hamza,” “Hamza Warsame, Say His Name,” “Muslim Lives Matter,” “No Justice No Peace, Fuck the Police” and “#Black Lives Matter.”
“I felt like it was something that the students needed to do,” said Cultural Programming & Development Coordinator Samuel Chesneau. “They felt like they needed to be heard. The decision to let the Seattle police know they are frustrated and angry made sense to me. Their intentions today were to recognize and honor Hamza. They wanted to remind folks who they are on this campus, in a positive way. They wanted to show solidarity, not just amongst ourselves, but with our allies.”