AL-RAQQAH, Syria – Protesters from the group Black Lives Matter caused what observers called a “major headache,” so to speak, in Syria last Friday when they interrupted a public beheading being carried out by the group the Islamic State.
Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, a spokesman for the Islamic State, or ISIS, said the protesters had “stormed” the front steps of the town hall in Al-Raqqah, where ISIS fighters were about to behead four civilians for what al-Adnani called “the heinous crime of pigeon breeding.”
The protest group was led by Imani Mills, a 26-year-old community activist and aspiring motocross racer from Minneapolis, who claims she was attempting to highlight the glaring racial inequalities found throughout the Islamic State.
"Most people don't realize that the Islamic State is the most dangerous place on earth to be a person of color," said Mills. "Fully 100% of all violence in this country is carried out against people of color, making it worse than Nigeria, the Central African Republic, or even Baltimore."
Mills added, "Every day people of color in the Islamic State are shot to death by the police or locked up in cages. ISIS needs to recognize its role in perpetuating this hetero-patriarchal state violence."
While Black Lives Matters now contains 28 separate chapters, including one in Canada, its Syrian chapter is by far the least successful. According to Mills, the group originally just tried walking around downtown Raqqah yelling "Hands Up Don't Shoot," but were mistaken for a group of surrendering Syrian Army soldiers and gunned down.
Mills says they later tried unsuccessfully to disrupt a speech by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by waving signs which read "Ban the Box," a movement to remove criminal records from job applications. However the phrase only led to confusion when ISIS members thought they were referring to the boxes the group puts collaborators in and sets on fire.
Last month they tried blocking the roads into Raqqah, chanting, "Shut this whole town down! The power, the roads, the water!" but gave up after they realized the Syrian Air Force had destroyed them all in a bombing raid several months earlier.
However, both al-Adnani and Mills said this latest protest had led to "productive dialogue" once ISIS' leaders realized her storming the stage was not an attempted suicide bombing by their rival group Al-Nusrah Front.
Al-Adnani also said that ISIS would attempt to include a wider variety of races and ethnic groups in future executions and vowed to set up a multicultural "All Deaths Matter" Martyrs Brigade.
ISIS also declared a "period of reflection," to avoid appearing racially insensitive and called off the remaining events of the day, including crushing several children with a bulldozer and immolating a suspected CIA spy.