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Jay Kelly and I first connected back in the days of Occupy Wall Street, when Kelly was involved in Occupy Boston. Since then, he's launched Proxy Prophet and Muslim Love, two screen printing businesses that support the activist community with wearable and stick-on propaganda. He frequently donates to activist causes through his t-shirts too, such as his Jeremy Hammond t-shirt which supports the political prisoners' commissary fund.
Proxy Prophet will be donating a "Good Night White Pride" unicorn decal to my Gonzo Giveaway for anyone who gives $10 or more before December 1st, in addition to the scott crow book and stickers from The Cats Cult and Sleep Is Famous which were already included.
Kelly is an Irish man from Boston, but in his teens he converted to Islam and he remains a practicing Muslim today. His wife and her family are also Muslim. Kelly is still involved in activism and is openly antifascist. He was violently arrested while resisting a fascist "free speech" rally in Boston in August, though the charges were eventually dropped. Police targeted Kelly, his wife, and others who were confronting the cops about their defense of white supremacists.
While he isn't usually profiled for his appearance or subject to ICE raids, other Muslims near him, like activist Siham Byah have been targeted. I asked him about being at the intersection of white privilege and the growing Islamophobia in the U.S.
Kit: Has that inspired some of your antifascist organizing, that you're defending your community?
Jay Kelly: Yeah definitely. The thing that I said the most, I can link you to the YouTube videos that I took before I got arrested but the thing that I said the most to the police were experiences of people around me. I'm a straight, white dude, Irish from Boston. I look like the extras from "Good Will Hunting," you know? There's a lot of white privilege in that and Irish privilege in the city of Boston.
But when I was speaking to the police the things that I was saying to them most was what about these people around me. How am I supposed to go back to my mom and say that I didn't do anything when I knew these people were coming?
How am I supposed to go back to my trans friends and say don't worry about using the bathroom when I know some of these people don't even want my trans friends to use the proper bathroom. Massachusetts was the first state in the country to legalize gay marriage. How do I go back to my friends who are married and say I didn't go and oppose these people who want to take away your right to be married?
My mother in law is a hijabi, she goes in public all the time in hijab. How do I go back to my 70-year old mother-in-law and say that I didn't go oppose these people who were coming and advocating for her to be deported because she's a Muslim?
The thing is that letting fascists organize in public emboldens people. So if nazis or fascists or the KKK or whoever has a chance to speak their position in public, it emboldens people who have these views who may have been on the fence about whether or not they want to be a Klan member or a full on fascist but they have these conservative or far right views.
At this point they see people in public talking about it so they feel emboldened and that's when you have Islamophobic assaults on the train, or racist assaults on the train. It happen to Hispanic and Latinx people all the time. There's an assumption that Hispanic or Latinx folks "aren't from here" when people look at them a lot of the time, that they come here from somewhere else that they're trying to take our place where as a lot of these people --
But when fascists and the far right and the KKK are allowed to organize in public its when these other people are emboldened, that's when these everyday interpersonal terrorist attacks happen. The case in Portland where the two men were murdered on the train where they intervened in an Islamophobic attack. The guy got onto the train and was harassing a couple of young black women who were wearing hijab. People stood up and said 'you can't do that, this isn't right' and they ended up being murdered for it.
Typically that's not how that situation pans out but there's been many documented cases of anti-immigrant attacks on the public transit system here in Boston since Trump's inauguration. There's multiple documented cases of Islamophobic attacks against people on the transit system here in Boston.