Follow Up on the Vigil for Omar Islam

I was unable to attend the vigil last night because I’m sick and I regret that quite a bit. So I’ve pieced together reports on the vigil. My understanding is that this is not a hate crime, there was no motive connected to Omar as an individual or who he was – he was just a guy to rob and senselessly execute. The good sliver of news is that we know (or I know and hope you believe) that the police and the FBI always explore that aspect.

But that doesn’t begin to offset the loss of this young man and the horror of the facts – the intent to rob someone, the fact that they executed him even after they had his items. And that a 16 year old boy is going to spend his life in prison or be executed himself , that a 16 year old boy shot someone in the back after robbing him. The police have arrested a 16 year old boy in this execution and are searching for two others.

This may not be a hate crime motivated by identity or perceived identity, but it is absolutely clear that street violence – ALL VIOLENCE – is an LGBTQ issue.

There’s simply no comparison between the hate driven assault in Lawrenceville and the murder of Omar Islam and I’m confident that Ben & Aaron would agree. However, they both reflect the disregard for human life and the consequences of stigma, poverty and racism.  Ben & Aaron are alive and healing because someone intervened – that’s all we can say for sure. Omar is not alive and his friends and family cannot support him any longer. Omar participated in groups speerheaded by PATF and Project Silk – that makes him part of our community, period.

What is heartening is that they both also drew friends and strangers alike to vigils to mourn and support the survivors and loved ones. The Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force organized the rally for Omar and I saw in the footage that many of the same people who attended the rally in Lawrenceville were present in East Liberty last night.

Media coverage of the vigil:

KDKA (CBS affiliate)

WTAE (ABC affiliate)

WPXI (NBC affiliate)

At least 7 media outlets covered the assault against Ben and the ensuing vigil. This is not right. And we should not tolerate this as Pgh’s LGBTQ community. We must demand justice for Omar and work with our neighbors to reduce violence against anyone. And we should insist that the media cover the vigils and the rallies as well as the crimes themselves.

To be fair, I can’t say for sure that the Trib, the Post-Gazette or the City Paper weren’t at the rally – I’m trying to confirm. It is possible their coverage is forthcoming.

Omar Islam, murder
Photo: Evelyn Pavlova

omar islam, murder


Photo: Evelyn Pavlova

Photo: Evelyn Pavlova



Please know that Persad Center is available to all who have been the target of a crime – they will support you while you  file a police report and they can support you as you process the consequences. Persad is connected with other regional organizations and can help you find the professional and social supports you need. It was very heartening to see PATF take the lead in organizing the vigil as Omar was a part of their M2M program. I hope we as a community can continue to support these efforts by our community organizations.

I will share any further information as it becomes available . Please keep Omar’s family and friends in your thoughts.


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