24 Nov Solidarity: Well Played, Belgium. Well Played.
November 13, 2015: The world stilled as we learned of the wave of six terrorist attacks in Paris, France.
Speaking for myself, and other Americans, the attack hit home and we wept and cringed in our hearts as it brought back memories of 9/11 when terrorist hit us on U.S. soil.
Social media was bombarded with prayers for France, messages of love, of support—others wondering if further war would ensue. Facebook reacted immediately, offering a profile picture overlay of the French flag as a way or means for people to show solidarity for France and showing a stance against terrorism.
By November 15, 2015, my newsfeed was bombarded with disagreements and arguments…showing anything but solidarity.
I saw ugliness in how people spoke to each other. I saw division. I saw people belittling others for their choices to have or to not have changed their profile pictures with the overlay.
I read of some showing outrage for places such as Syria, Beirut, Iraq, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Palestine, Yemen—the list goes on—of other war torn areas that live under terrorist threat daily; statements of how we only care about the Western civilizations.
I began to read the hot topic debate of #BlackLives Matter and #AllLivesMatter resurfacing in comparison to the terrorist attacks. Arguments ensued stating that those living in war torn countries have darker skin therefore reiterating that people of color somehow matter less.
Then came the arguments about war and should France retaliate—those preaching peace were belittled; those promoting war were called war mongers…
I started feeling like we are definitely not a nation united but rather a nation dived. This tore at my heartstrings and made me feel sick.
After all, isn’t fear and division what the terrorists want?
Saturday November 21, 2015 Belgian authorities closed down Brussels’ subway system and flooded the streets with armed police and soldiers in response to what they said was a threat of Paris-style attacks.
The decision to raise the threat alert to the highest level in the Belgian capital came as the manhunt continued for a suspect missing since the carnage in neighboring France. It was taken “based on quite precise information about the risk of an attack like the one that happened in Paris,” as spoken by Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel.
The U.S. Embassy in Belgium urged Americans in the country “to shelter in place and remain at home” . The U.S. European Command issued a 72-hour travel restriction for U.S. military personnel on travel to Brussels — the city of more than 1 million, that is home to the headquarters of the European Union, the NATO alliance and offices of many multinational corporations.
Tensions were also high elsewhere in Europe.
In Paris, police equipped with emergency powers extended a ban on demonstrations and other gatherings through till November 30th when a U.N. climate conference with more than 100 heads of state is scheduled to start.
Several of the Paris attackers had lived in Brussels, including suspected mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was killed in a standoff with French police on Wednesday.
Salah Abdeslam, another suspected attacker, is at large and is known to have crossed into Belgium the morning after the November 13th attacks.
Officials across Europe, the Mideast and in Washington are trying to determine how a network of primarily French and Belgian attackers with links to Islamic extremists in Syria plotted and carried out the deadliest violence in France in decades — and how many may still be on the run.
Belgium’s national Crisis Center raised its terrorism alert for the Brussels region to Level 4, which indicates a “serious and immediate threat.” Heavily armed police and soldiers on Saturday patrolled key intersections of the city.
Residents were advised to avoid gatherings, train stations, airports and commercial districts. Service was halted on the Brussels Metro, as well as on streetcar lines that run underground.
The Prime Minister, speaking at a news conference after the emergency government meeting, said “We urge the public not to give in to panic, to stay calm. We have taken the measures that are necessary.”
November 22, 2015 news of a police operation in Brussels quickly spread on Twitter as eyewitnesses and journalists shared photos and observationsunder the hashtag #BrusselsLockdown . However, they soon realized that their Tweets might endanger the lives of police officers when Belgian authorities asked social media users to stop sharing details.
Instead of reacting with fear, in an attempt to confuse anyone trying to find details of police movements on Twitter, users started posting photos of kittens attached to the hashtag.
“After Belgian police asked residents not to share details of the #BrusselsLockdown via social media, civilians took over the hashtag and flooded it with pictures of their feline friends,” Twitter said, summarizing the bizarre development on its dedicated “Moments” page.
Photos of kittens continued to be posted even after the raids ended. In a press conference after midnight local time, authorities said they had made 16 arrests in the operation in Brussels.
This, my friends, is what true solidarity looks like: an entire region banding together and instead of arguing over what could be done, what one should do, whether they have the French colours overlaid on their profile pictures, etc. they stood as one and posted pictures of cats to throw off any leads regarding police operations and as a way or means to encourage and support one another through their time of crisis.
“This is the duty of our generation as we enter the twenty-first century: solidarity with the weak, the persecuted, the lonely, the sick, and those in despair. It is expressed by the desire to give a noble and humanizing meaning to a community in which all members will define themselves not by their own identity but by that of others. ~Elie Wiesel
Author: Mary Rogers
Editor: Sarah Kolkka