“These two guys are the heroes”: The US Army veteran and economics grad who stood up to racism

Standing up to hate.
Standing up to hate.
Image: AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus
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Two men were killed this week while intervening in an apparently anti-Muslim attack in Portland, Oregon: Former US Army sergeant Rick Best, 53, and recent college grad Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23. Yesterday, about 1,000 people attended a vigil in their honor at the site of the attack.

Tweets from Oregonian reporter Beth Nakamura show Namkai-Meche’s mother embracing participants of the vigil, including a young woman in a hijab.

The men were stabbed on Friday while trying to calm a man reportedly ”yelling various remarks that would best be characterized as hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions” at a pair of seemingly Muslim women, according the Portland police bureau. A third victim, college student Micah David-Cole Fletcher, also tried to intervene and was also stabbed. He is recovering from surgery at a local hospital, the Oregonian reports.

“He was a hero and will remain a hero on the other side of the veil,” wrote Asha Deliverance Namkai-Meche on Facebook. Her family also released a statement to the press: “In his final act of bravery, [Taliesin] held true to what he believed is the way forward.”

Rick Best was a Portland city employee and a veteran who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. ”My heart goes out to the family of Rick Best,” writes Portland city commissioner Chloe Eudaly in a statement. ”And as a veteran, he served our country with honor and distinction. He stood up for two young women and others he didn’t even know—all because he wanted to help.”

“These two guys are the heroes,” Musse Olol, chairman of the Somali American Council of Oregon, told the Los Angeles Times yesterday.

Many have called on Donald Trump to condemn the attack. “President Trump must speak out personally against the rising tide of Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry and racism in our nation that he has provoked through his numerous statements, policies and appointments that have negatively impacted minority communities,” says Nihad Awad of the Center on American-Islamic Relations in a statement. At time of writing, the US president had not released a statement.