From the September-October 2018 issue of News & Letters
by Buddy Bell
On the night of Aug. 20, University of North Carolina students and workers finally tore to the ground a statue of a generic Confederate soldier that had stood at the front entrance to the campus since 1913. Students had painted the statue red immediately after the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968. In April 2018, graduate student Maya Little spilled her own blood on it. Little called the statue “a literal noose hanging on our campus, a memorial to violence towards Black people, to the people who enslaved my ancestors and sold their children. By pouring my blood and red ink on the statue, I hoped to contextualize it.”
A pro-asylum student in Gothenburg, Sweden, 21-year-old Elin Errson, bought a ticket to Turkey on a flight on which a young refugee from Afghanistan would be deported on the following day. In reality, she boarded another deportation flight for a different Afghan man. As the flight was about to depart the gate, Errson began a live-stream recording, where she announced her intention to remain standing until the man was taken off the plane. Errson said to one angry passenger: “What is more important, a life, or your time?…I want him to get off the plane because he is not safe in Afghanistan. I’m trying to change my country’s rules. It is not right to send people to hell.” After a standoff, airline personnel relented, to a round of passenger applause, as they led the man back to the terminal.
When tens of thousands of young Iraqi men returned to Basra after risking their lives in the war against ISIS, they faced problems: unemployment, electricity shortages, lack of clean water. By July 13 youth demonstrations seized the Umm Qasr port, blocking imports for three days. The protests continued through August, as over 17,000 people were hospitalized due to water poisoning. When a protest neared the Basra oil-fields on Sept. 1, police opened fire. In response, protests swelled to choke the Baghdad-Basra highway. Umm Qasr was seized again from Sept. 6-8. On Sept. 7, women held their own demonstration, chanting, “this is a promise: Basra will never shut up!” Their words were prophetic. By Sept. 10, outraged citizens had burned down most Iraqi government buildings and the Iranian embassy.