AAPI community mourns the death of Arif Sayed Faisal



Citizens gathered at Cambridge City Hall on Jan. 9 to protest Faisal’s death.

Content warning: self harm.

Arif Sayed Faisal was a 20-year-old Bangladeshi computer engineering student studying at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He moved to America in 2015 with his parents from Fatikchhari Upazila, Bangladesh. Friends and parents described him as good-hearted, loving, generous and very family-oriented.

On Wednesday, Jan. 4, Faisal was shot dead by police in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After a 911 call reported a man jumping out of an apartment window and cutting himself with glass shards and a large knife, neighbors called the police. Authorities found Faisal bleeding behind a Sidney Street building. Upon being approached by the police, Faisal fled, according to reports. He ran several blocks of Cambridge with a knife, and the authorities attempted to verbally de-escalate the situation on Chestnut Street. Faisal then allegedly moved toward officers, knife in hand. Police claim that they used “less-than-lethal” sponge rounds before they opened fire at the young college student. The shot didn’t stop Faisal and an officer struck again to disarm him.
He was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital and later died as a result of his injuries.

A cultural non-profit organization, The Bangladesh Association of New England, criticized the Cambridge Police Department (CPD) on account of police brutality. The organization hosted a rally on the afternoon on Thursday, Jan. 5, drawing a crowd of 50, to protest the mistreatment of young student Faisal. The Bangladesh Association of New England raised over $39,000 via their GoFundMe to help Faisal’s family with funeral costs and support them.

Investigations into Faisal’s death are still in preliminary stages, but many citizens are dissatisfied. Uncle of the victim, Salim Jahangir, stated that Faisal’s body had still not been turned over to the family by the evening following his nephew’s death. Jahangir says there is only one thing the family and protesters demand as of now, and that is a “fair investigation.”

There is debate over whether Faisal’s death was racially motivated; above all, it was a tragedy and should be treated as such. If the result of a mental health crisis is being shot and killed by police, Massachusetts needs to take a good long look at itself and ask if we can still brag about our “woke” liberal neighborhoods.

Please, do not use Faisal’s death as a political prop. Arif Sayed Faisal was not a martyr; he did not die for a cause. He was a young man likely experiencing a mental health crisis and is now lost, leaving a hole in the South Asian community in Massachusetts.

APAC and SASA met this past Wednesday, Jan. 11, during X block to partake in a discussion and offer support to members of the AAPI community, staff and students alike.