Image: Gone Fishing
Fifteen people have been killed in a terror attack on Las Ramblas avenue in Barcelona on the 17th of August. Over 80 others were injured. An attacker drove a large white van down Las Ramblas Avenue, a pedestrian street packed with tourists and Barcelonians, plowing through crowds of people, killing and injuring many while causing mass chaos and a mini stampede. The attack happened before 5 pm Central European Time (11 a.m. Eastern Standard Time), and the Police acted quickly, evacuating the area and closing nearby Metro and train stations while getting aid to the victims.
The attackers reportedly had fled on foot. Four men were arrested for their alleged involvement in the attack. Also, police found another van they believe was going to be used as a getaway vehicle and found Moroccan passports. Driss Oukabir, one of the arrested suspects, claims his documents were stolen to rent the vans. Adding to the confusion, a hostage situation was reported by the media, but it is unclear whether it actually happened. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, but this does not mean that the attackers have any direct ties with ISIS. Furthermore, an explosion the day before that killed one person and injured 6 has been linked to the attack. Our hearts are with Barcelona, the victims of this callous and unwarranted attack, and the law enforcement and medical staff dealing with its fallout.
Many politicians and famous people tweeted their support. President Macron of France, Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada, President Vladimir Putin of Russia and many other world leaders also issued statements or tweets expressing their solidarity with Barcelona, including our own President, Trump. Trump originally told Barcelona to “be tough & strong, we love you” in a kind, heartfelt tweet of solidarity, but then proceeded to tweet a bizarre statement mentioning a claim he made on the campaign trail about an American General in the Philippines during the early 1900’s dipping bullets in Pig’s blood before shooting 49 captured terrorists and sending the 50th back to report what had happened. Trump said it stopped terrorism for 35 years in his tweet. First of all, this piece of made up “history” has been debunked, and second of all, let me recount a bit of history to explain how truly atrocious and dehumanizing this urban legend is. When America invaded the Philippines, there were protests against it in America with supporters saying the invasion was cruel and unfair and supporters saying that we had to bring order and civilization to a “barbaric race,” in the words of a United States Senator at the time. The Muslims we were fighting against were the native Filipinos who were trying to protect their country. We were the terrorists. We put people into “reconcentration camps” and killed somewhere between 200,000 and a million civilians in a war that only killed 16000 Filipino soldiers. It is possible Trump’s story is true, except we weren’t killing terrorists, we were committing an atrocity against a country and race based on racist stereotypes. The answer to Islamic extremism is not to make the West seem barbaric or aggressive towards Islamism or people in general. Trump has been inadvertently helping ISIS recruit with his aggression and insulting speeches towards all Islam (and humanity) instead of violent Islam, even having been featured in ISIS recruitment video.
Refocusing on the attack, this is the ninth vehicle attack in Europe. Seven previous vehicle attacks were committed by ISIS affiliated attackers and one was committed by an extremist who drove into a group of people outside of mosque saying “I want to kill all Muslims.” There was also a vehicle attack on the home front in Charlottesville just this Saturday. White Supremacists had gathered for a rally protesting the taking down of a Robert E. Lee statue, their chants and messages couldn’t possibly be misconstrued as not hateful, with chants like “Jews will not replace us” as they held Hitler signs. Counter-protesters formed a line in front of them, refusing to let them pass. The protesters violently charged through them, and the two groups broke out into fighting. Luckily, police were there to disperse the two groups. While the governor of Charlottesville called it a state of emergency. Nobody had yet gotten killed or seriously injured and both groups were leaving. Then, a white nationalist drove a car into a group of counter-demonstrators, killing one and injuring nineteen. When the attack happened, the groups of protesters and counter-protesters had already split up, there was no violence or skirmishes going on between those groups at the time of the attack. In a statement after the attacks, our President refused to condemn the White Supremacists, even when asked direct questions about his view of them, instead, he blamed violence on “many sides.” Two days later, Trump claimed that he didn’t support the KKK or White Supremacist groups in a scripted speach, however, on Tuesday, he had undone the comments that he had made on Monday by going as far as defending the white supremacists. By any account, his statement of condemnation came too late and was too ambiguous. White Supremacists took his failure to condemn them as support, and it seemed a lot like support to everyone else as well.
As a nation, and as a world we are left with these facts; vehicles are easy to get and large groups of innocent people are easy to find. Having one group of crazy extremists inspired by ISIS to attack people was scary enough, but now because of the amount of xenophobia, fear and hate that has been caused by ISIS and how our countries have handled ISIS, anti-Muslim extremists and white supremacists are also attacking innocent people in their twisted war on people who are different.
There is no sign this is going to get any better. The leader of the KKK said of the attack in Charlottesville “we’re going to see more stuff like this happening at white-nationalist events.” He could absolutely be right. As more terrorist attacks happen, charged by different groups all of whom are growing and possibly becoming more violent, we need a leader who’s going to condemn all people who kill innocent civilians or attempt to whether they are White Supremacists, Muslim extremists or anti-Muslim extremists, without insulting any groups who did not kill innocent civilians. Unfortunately, Donald Trump has demonstrated how he is completely incapable of confronting many of his base supporters.