On Friday September 16, 2012 Harrisonburg’s local mosque and Islamic Center was defaced by spray paint. The mosque is the Islamic Center for not only Harrisonburg, but the entire Shenandoah Valley. The next day, the nearby Redeemer Christian School was similarly defaced. It was shocking and upsetting to not only the members of these respective places but also to the surrounding community.
Almost immediately the local community responded, and within hours had scheduled a gathering that Sunday to show support for the mosque and the school. Through the efforts of a few local figureheads, word spread quickly, and the event had nearly 1,000 attendees. It was a great show of support by the local community and made quite a powerful statement about the community we have here in Harrisonburg.
One of the reasons the even was so successful was the use of social media; namely Twitter and Facebook. Word of the vandalism spread rapidly through Twitter and Facebook. Subsequently, word of the solidarity event on Sunday spread quickly as well. A Facebook event page for the event invited hundreds of people.
Having attended the event personally, we were amazed at the amount of people that had been assembled in such a short time. It was also neat to see how genuine people’s support was, and we felt a lot of pride that the city we have been calling home had such a positive reaction.
This event is a prime example of how social media can quickly mobilize a community and call them to action. It is useful for the spreading of information, organizing, and championing a cause. On a much larger scale, we have seen similar effects in the revolutions of the Arab Spring.