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Far-right extremist charged with murder

23rd Jun 2017

Elham Asaad Buaras

The man accused of killing two men who tried to protect teenagers from his Islamophobic and racist harassment on a train in Portland, Oregon, US, was charged with murder, attempted murder, possession of a weapon and hate crime on May 30.

Jeremy Christian, 35, who did not enter a plea entered the courtroom, screaming: “Get out if you don’t like free speech. You call it terrorism, I call it patriotism. You hear me? Die. Leave this country if you hate our freedom – death to Antifa!”

At approximately 4:30 pm on May 26, Christian allegedly fatally stabbed two men and injured a third on a MAX Light Rail train, after he was confronted for “yelling a gamut of anti-Muslim and anti-everything slurs”.

According to Portland police report, Christian shouted “hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions.” He screamed “he was a taxpayer, that coloured people were ruining the city, and he had First Amendment rights”.

Christian rants were so loud that the train operator demanded the person creating the disturbance exit the train immediately. Christian, however, continued directing his tirade at an unnamed 17-year-old Muslim girl who was wearing a hijab, and her non-Muslim black friend Destinee Mangum,16.

The man told the girls to “to go back to Saudi Arabia”; to get out of “his country”; that they were “nothing and they should kill themselves” and “that Muslims should die”.

Fearful, the pair moved to the back of the train only to be followed by Christian. It was then that father of four Ricky Best, 53, economics graduate, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, and Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, attempted to form a barrier between Christian and the girls.

According to a witness, Namkai-Meche told Christian: “Please get off this train” and someone gave him “a slight push or shove” in an attempt to move him away, to which he responded, “Touch me again, or I’m going to kill you.”

Christian then allegedly fatally stabbed Best and Namkai-Meche, also injuring Fletcher. All three men were slashed in the neck. Best died at the scene while Namkai-Meche died at a hospital shortly after the attack. Christian fled the station and was filmed taunting police before he was arrested.

Police are investigating Christian’s potentially extremist ideologies. The suspect appeared at a free speech rally in Portland in April, making racist remarks and the Nazi salute. He came to the rally wearing a Revolutionary War-era flag and armed with a baseball bat that was confiscated by the police.

Police had to separate Christian from others as he shouted and swore at them declaring he was a “nihilist” and the rally was “my safe place”.

Christian posted anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi material on his Facebook page as well as memes attacking anti-fascist activists. He declared that if the President was “the next Hitler”, he would “join the SS”.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler condemned the current political climate and the “spewing” of bigotry, adding that the “victims were all attacked because they did the right things. Their acts showed selflessness and should serve as an inspiration to us all, The killer will face justice.”

President Donald Trump delayed commenting on the attack, leading to public pressure on him to do so. In an open letter to Trump on social media Asha Deliverance, the mother of Namkai-Meche, urged the President to condemn acts of violence, which result directly from hate speech.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also demanded the President condemns the attacks. Its National Executive Director, Nihad Awad, said Trump “must speak out personally against the rising tide of Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry and racism in our nation that he has provoked through his numerous statements, policies and appointments that have negatively impacted minority communities”.

Trump belatedly condemned the attack on May 29 three days after the killings. “The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them,” tweeted Trump.

Hundreds of people gathered near the Hollywood Transit Station on May 27 for a candlelight vigil to honour the victims. By May 29 three crowd-funding campaigns set up to benefit the victims’ families collectively raised $1 million, $600,000 of which was raised by Muslim NGOs the Muslim Education Trust and CelebrateMercy.

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