Bartholomew Williams and Mohammed Salayme did not appear to have much in common. Williams, a 38-year-old African American, was a graduate student at California State University, San Bernardino and Salayme was a 17-year-old youth in Hebron, West Bank, Palestine. Williams went back to school part-time last summer and had just wrapped up his semester. Salayme was a high school student and also attended the Palestinian Circus School. But they both lived in racist societies that brutalize oppressed communities.
Both were shot and killed in the second week of December.
Bartholomew Williams, who had a history of mental illness, resisted police when they tried to take him in for a psychiatric evaluation. He had had two previous encounters with campus officers that day. Even though the officers were aware of his behavior earlier in the day, and knew he might have mental health issues, they approached him as if he were a dangerous criminal and attempted to handcuff him. When he resisted, he was shot five times and died on the scene on Dec. 9.
Mohammed Salayme, celebrating his 17th birthday on Dec. 12, was on his way to buy a cake when an Israeli soldier fired three bullets into him. The Israeli army originally tried to peg him as a terrorist with a gun and later changed their story to say it was a plastic gun. The family denies that he had any gun at all. Some reports suggest there was a different child also being held at the checkpoint who did have a plastic pistol. Regardless he lay dying for two hours before being picked up by an ambulance. Within minutes of the shooting, Palestinians, including his father, activists and journalists gathered and were met with sound bombs, tear gas and rubber bullets. Several journalists were hospitalized after being severely beaten.
Bartholomew Williams’ death is currently under investigation by the police force that killed him and his death will undoubtedly by ruled “justifiable.” Lt. Paul Williams, who is heading up the investigation, stated almost immediately after the killing, "Officers fearing for that officer's life believed they had no other means than the use of deadly force."
Israeli soldier Nofar Mizrahi stated after killing Mohammed Salayme, “After they investigated the incident it turned out it was a fake gun, but it didn’t change how I felt about it. I’m happy this ended with no injuries on our side and I'm sure any other officer in my situation would have done what I did.”
While Williams and Salayme never knew each other, their unjust ends reflect the ultimate racism and bigotry upheld by the “democracies” that perpetrated them. As brutality and constant humiliations and indignities continue in Gaza, the West Bank and for the Palestinians living inside the 1948 borders, so too does a racist legacy continue within the U.S. borders. All progressive people have the obligation to stand against racism and injustice. From the West Bank to the West Coast: No justice—No peace!