Originally published in Vox (recovering from chemo - sorry to cut and paste)
Brits in the wake of the Brexit earlier this year. In June, after the National Police Chiefs’ Council concluded that it had seen a 57 percent rise in reported incidents, Prime Minister David Cameron had to address MPs and the British public to state that the vote was not an excuse to commit xenophobic abuse.
That was also when Brits realized the power of a simple safety pin.
During the height of these attacks, many people wanted to show solidarity, support, and offer safety to one another but didn’t know how. And an American woman named Allison (who didn’t want her last name revealed in the Guardian) living in Britain at the time decided that she wanted to change that:In a big city like London, or even in someplace smaller like a grocery store, or a coffee shop, we’re all just strangers to one another. It can be difficult for all of us to either reach out for help or offer help. A symbol as simple as a safety pin can be an important first step in showing solidarity and support for people who are scared and upset at this time.
After Allison shared her idea, a #safetypin hashtag began trending, and Brits began posting selfies of themselves wearing safety pins on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram as a way to raise awareness.
The “safety pin” symbol was inspired by the 2014 #illridewithyou movement in Sydney, Australia. where people offered to sit next to Muslims who felt threatened on their commutes — at the time, there was fear of an Islamophobic backlash after a terrorist attack in Sydney left two hostages and the gunman dead (one of the hostages was killed by a bullet ricochet). And its spirit is in line with a guide to stopping Islamophobia that recently went viral and offers solutions to bystanders and witnesses.
There’s now a burgeoning effort in the United States for people to start wearing the safety pin stateside in the face of post-election attacks and harassment. Having to adopt a symbol of anti-violence and anti-bigotry is not exactly what any of us thought we’d be doing in the wake of a presidential election taking place in 2016, but it could be one small way to signal that you’re an ally (regardless of who you voted for) to someone who probably didn’t think they’d be inthis vitriolic and volatile situation either.