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After two weeks of nonstop protesting at Toronto Police headquarters, Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLM-TO) is receiving negative backlash after a co-founder's old tweet resurfaced.
Toronto radio host Jerry Agar shared a tweet on Tuesday, saying it was written by BLM-TO co-founder Yusra Khogali on Feb. 9. In the tweet, Khogali wrote, “Plz Allah give me the strength to not cuss/kill these men and white folks out here today. Plz plz plz.”
The tweet has since been deleted, and Khogali's account has been made private. Agar shared a screenshot of the tweet, which has been retweeted more than 3,000 times.
Agar's tweet came a day after BLM-TO wrapped up a two-week protest. Since March 21, several activists set up tents at the entrance of Toronto Police headquarters downtown.
The demands of the protest were simple: BLM-TO would not leave until it saw justice for Andrew Loku, who was shot and killed by Toronto police last July. After the Ontario Special Investigations Unit (SIU) ruled on March 18 that police used "justifiable force" against Loku, BLM-TO took to the streets of Toronto.
Khogali has yet to make a public statement, but tweeted on Wednesday before making her account private, “I am powerful. I am strong. I am resilient. I am untouchable. I will never stop resisting. Come at me.”
When contacted by NTRSCTN, Yusra Khogali declined to comment.
What is in the public interest is what our decision makers are going to be doing to ensure that black folks are not discriminated against, unfairly targeted, dehumanized, (and) killed by police services in our city and in our country.
The negative response to Khogali's two-month-old tweet has triggered outrage among several Toronto activists.
Sandy Hudson, fellow co-founder of BLM-TO, has been the only member of the organization to comment since news broke of Khogali’s tweet.
“Why is this even a story?” she asked CP24 on Tuesday during an in-person interview. After being asked about the context of Khogali’s tweet, she responded, “I won’t comment on it. It would be besmirching the memory of Andrew Loku, of Jermaine Carby, and the people who have died in our community.”
She added, “What is in the public interest is what our decision makers are going to be doing to ensure that black folks are not discriminated against, unfairly targeted, dehumanized, (and) killed by police services in our city and in our country.”
Rima Berns-McGown, researcher and lecturer at the University of Toronto where Khogali is currently a graduate student, told NTRSCTN about her interpretation of Khogali's tweet.
"Any thoughtful reading of Yusra's tweet makes clear that she is reacting in frustration, not actively planning an actual murder," Berns-McGown said. "Her tweet is an expression of the kind of thing that many people say in jest or in frustration or aggravation. 'I'm so furious I could kill that person'—and please God give me strength to deal with the nastiness I have to deal with every day, or right now in particular."
Indeed, #KillAllMen became a popular hashtag and online phenomenon among feminists in 2013 as a way to express anger towards masculinity.
"It's not an actual intent to commit murder but an expression of anger," Berns-McGown said. "I don't know that we all do it, but certainly most people would be familiar with that kind of expression of aggravation. It goes without saying that peaceful people who would never actually harm a fly say that kind of stuff all the time. And those of us who know Yusra know she is a person who is gentle and kind and full of love."
She added that Khogali's tweet was just a reaction to the trauma she experiences from everyday racism, misogyny, and Islamophobia.
deeply disgusted by toronto journalists who pounced to cover yusra khogali's months-old tweet, but took wks to adequately acknowledge #BLMTO— Carly Lewis (@carlylewis) April 6, 2016
Agar, however, thinks Khogali's tweet was hypocritical. He told NTRSCTN in a statement, “Her tweet is important because she is lobbying against racism and for respect, which is legitimate of course, but speaking in a way she and BLM would not tolerate from others.”
Khogali has since received several death threats on her public Facebook page:
“I think that [it’s] valuable…many people became engaged in the subject of what the issues are and whose opinion matters. Positions vary and discussion continues. That is a good thing,” Agar said.
By digging up a months-old, vague tweet and naming it a "death threat," Agar hoped to expose a disparity between what Black Lives Matter activists say and what they demand. But those who have shown concern over Khogali's initial "threat" have remained silent as she received death threats over the past 48 hours.
More importantly, highlighting Khogali's tweet instead of recent instances of black citizens being killed by police sends a clear message to BLM activists everywhere: When it comes to mainstream attitudes, a tweet about white men is more cause for concern than the systemic brutality that black people face every day.