Today has been a trying day for the Sydney, what with the ongoing siege in the busiest part of the city and the police lockdown of the centre. It started early this morning, when a gunman (who later claimed political motivation) walked into the Lindt chocolate cafe in the heart of Sydney’s financial district, took hostages, and forced them to display an Islamic flag. The Islamic flag read, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.”
About 10 employees and 30 customers were thought to be inside at the time.
Following which, Australian police, including paramilitary officers, cordoned off several blocks around the cafe as negotiators tried to defuse one of the biggest security scares in Australia for decades. Snipers and a SWAT team took up positions around the cafe and police helicopters flew overhead.
The hostage drama has ignited fears of a jihadist attack and sparked anti-Muslim sentiment across the city, following reports that the incident may be politically motivated. This is despite clarification that the flag is similar to those used by jihadist groups, but is different from the one used by Islamic State militants in the Middle East.
About 6 hours into the siege, 3 people were seen running from the building housing the cafe. 2 more people followed about an hour later.
It is not clear whether they escaped or were released.
While the Lindt chocolate cafe continues to be surrounded by armed police and officers maintain contact with the gunman to negotiate a safe release of the remaining hostages, Sydney’s and Australia’s social media users have united to pledge their solidarity with those who fear racially motivated and bigoted reprisals on public transport.
— Michael James (@MichaelJames_TV) December 15, 2014
It started from the above tweet from Michael James. He shared a screenshot of a Facebook status which tells of an incident involving 2 women on Sydney’s public transport network. Soon after, a @sirtessa offered to take a ride with anyone on public transport who was uncomfortable or expecting a bigoted response following today’s siege.
She started the hashtag #IllRideWithYou:
If you reg take the #373 bus b/w Coogee/MartinPl, wear religious attire, & don’t feel safe alone: I’ll ride with you. @ me for schedule. — Sir Tessa (@sirtessa) December 15, 2014
Maybe start a hashtag? What’s in #illridewithyou?
— Sir Tessa (@sirtessa) December 15, 2014
As quickly as other relevant-to-today’s-incident hashtags such as #SydneySiege and #MartinPlace trended worldwide, so did #IllRideWithYou. As at time of writing, the hashtag has garnered about 90,000 mentions on Twitter – and counting. So much so that it has seen participation from not only the people in Sydney, Melbourne, or anywhere in Australia alone. The whole world is in on it.
Needless to say, it has brought much needed comfort to tens of thousands of people who may have been initially frightened to commute to anywhere following news of the siege.
How can we disagree that this is beautiful?
Faith in humanity restored.