Twitter hashtag sparks a nationwide movement

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#NMOS14 was created by Feminista Jones to organize nationwide vigils on Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. (EST) honoring the lives of those slain by law enforcement officials. (via Facebook)

The nation is responding to what is viewed as repeated police brutality that all too often results in death. #NMOS14 was created by blogger Feminista Jones (she does not use her full name because she says she has received threats for her activism and beliefs) to organize nationwide vigils on Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. (EST) honoring the lives of those slain by law enforcement officials.

Philadelphia has had its own share of police brutality incidents, and the number of civil-rights lawsuits filed against the department spiked last year.

In a St. Louis suburb, residents are reeling over the death of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old who was shot and killed by a police officer on Aug. 9.

Outrage erupted immediately in Ferguson, Mo., after an unarmed Brown was killed, shot “more than a couple times,” by an unnamed officer according to a statement given by the Ferguson police chief during an Aug. 10 press conference. The hyper-local story quickly took legs and reached the national spotlight, garnering comparisons to the Sean Bell slaying in New York and the Trayvon Martin case in Florida.

As could have been expected, Twitter exploded and became a particularly vociferous outlet where frustrations, and solutions, were expressed online.

“I believe we need to gather together, exchange positive energy, show solidarity,” Jones, a social worker, writer and activist, said in an email interview.

Jones is part of a massive Twitter community often called “Black Twitter” and has nearly 30,000 followers on the social media platform as well as a blog dedicated to race and gender issues. Soon after Michael Brown was killed, she started the hashtag #NMOS14 that has since rapidly gained traction across the country and in Canada. The hashtag, a word or phrase used to identify a certain topic, stands for National Moment of Silence 2014. It’s already responsible for the organization of 26 vigils honoring the lives of individuals killed by law enforcement so far.

Cherry Hill resident Leslie MacFadyen, an account executive at a Philadelphia-area IT training company, is responsible for organizing Philly’s branch of the nationwide vigil, which is scheduled to take place at LOVE Park at 16th Street and JFK Boulevard on the designated date and time, Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. (EST). At 7:20 p.m., each vigil is expected to have a unified moment of silence.

MacFadyen is a founding member of the Unitarian Universal Legislative Ministry of New Jersey’s “Ending the New Jim Crow Task Force,” aimed at ending mass incarceration with state legislation. She learned of the hashtag and ensuing vigils from Jones’ Twitter account.

“I CAN do something to bring attention to this important issue in our country and in our cities,” MacFadyen said in an email interview. Using the vigil, she wants to gather similarly minded individuals and contact information in hopes to “continue work in this area.”

“I put out a call for us to gather in each city across the U.S. for a peaceful vigil in the way of the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in NYC, and countless others who have [died from] police brutality around the country,” Jones said. She urges vigil attendees to “honor the victims, so come in peace and be focused on settling ourselves.” She recommends that people share their own stories and bring signs with the names and pictures of individuals killed by the police.

“Hashtag activism” as coined by many media outlets, has often drawn criticism for its lack of action. The #KONY2012 movement has been cited as an example of the failure of hashtag activism. “Ask almost anyone if Joseph Kony was ever captured or if they even know who he is….Blank stares are almost all one encounters,” writes a columnist for The Times-News.

However, as is the case for #NMOS14, hashtag activism has proven capable of yielding results. In March, a #nomakeupselfies campaign raised over $13 million for the Cancer Research UK charity in just six days.

Each #NMOS14 vigil has an individual Facebook page, and Jones has created an official Facebook page listing each of the vigils scheduled to date.

Of #NMOS14, Jones offers a call to action. “Let this be the peaceful starting point for the next steps,” she said.

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