Students Attacked in Vermont in a Potential Hate Crime

Three Palestinian college students were shot in Burlington, Vermont on November 25 in what is currently being investigated as a potential hate crime. The victims—Kinnan Abdalhamid, Tahseen Ali Ahmad and Hisham Awartani—were in Burlington for the Thanksgiving holiday visiting Awartani’s grandmother. They were walking near the University of Vermont campus on a Saturday evening when they were approached by the gunman and fired upon. All three men were hospitalized, with Abdalhamid being released on November 28, while Awartani sustained a serious spinal injury and may be paralyzed (Vermont Public). 

On November 26, police arrested suspect Jason J. Eaton in connection with the shooting. He was arraigned the following day for three counts of attempted murder and pleaded not guilty (AP News). Authorities are currently investigating whether the attack qualifies as a hate crime. The three victims attended school together in the West Bank territory before studying in the U.S. They reported that they had been speaking in Arabic before they were attacked, and two of the students were wearing keffiyehs, scarves that have come to symbolize support for Palestine (Reuters). Sarah George, the Vermont state attorney for Chittenden County, told reports at a press conference, “Although we do not yet have evidence to support a hate crime enhancement, there is no question this was a hateful act” (Vermont Public). 

One of the victims has also spoken out. “In the West Bank, we’re not safe because of the occupation, and as a Palestinian American, I’m not safe in America because of people like this that might come out. It’s just something that’s very hard to grapple with,” Abdalhamid told The New York Times in an interview. In a statement from the White House, President Joe Biden also condemned the attack, saying, “While we are waiting for more facts, we know this: there is absolutely no place for violence or hate in America.” In the wake of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the U.S. has grappled with an increase in anti-semitic, anti-Arab, and islamophobic attacks. Both the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Anti-Defamation League reported increased incidents of discrimination and violence since the war began on October 7, according to The Guardian. 

The Bridgewater State Police Department’s emergency procedures for active shootings can be found at www.bridgew.edu/about-us/police-department/emergency-procedures. 

 

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