Numerous celebrities have expressed outrage following the death of Nia Wilson, an 18-year-old black woman who was fatally stabbed at a BART station in Oakland Sunday night in an unprovoked attack.
Since the attack, the hashtag #SayHerName has circulated to raise awareness about black women who are victims of violence.
Wilson’s alleged attacker, John Lee Cowell, who is white, was arrested the following day after BART police released images of him from surveillance footage and police bodycam footage, according to a press release from the BART police department.
Cowell also allegedly stabbed Wilson’s sister on the platform of the MacArthur BART Station platform, but she survived the attack.
Cowell was charged Wednesday with murder and attempted murder, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office announced.
Police have not determined the motive for the attack, and despite speculation, prosecutors have said no evidence of racial motivation has surfaced.
But Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said in the press release announcing charges against Cowell, “If there is evidence uncovered that this defendant murdered and attempted to murder these two young African American women because of their race or any other factor as outlined in the Hate Crime Statutes, the Complaint will be amended to allege the Hate Crimes.”
“She is not a hash tag; she was a black woman and she was murdered in cold blood by a white man,” the actress wrote.
The Ocean’s 8 star also assailed what she characterized as white privilege and inaction in the face of violence and injustice.
“White people- including me, including you- must take into the marrow of our privileged bones the truth that ALL black people fear for their lives DAILY in America and have done so for GENERATIONS,” she wrote. “White people DO NOT have equivalence for this fear of violence. Given those givens, we must ask our (white)selves- how “decent” are we really? Not in our intent, but in our actions? In our lack of action?”
Hathaway ended her post with #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, as well as #AntiRacist, #NoExcuse, #SayHerName, and #EarnTheRightToSayHerName.
Actress Viola Davis wrote on Twitter, “At what point will it stop? I’m getting tired of the heartbreak. Tired of needing to organize [rallies’ to convince people that our lives matter. To the killer, I will NOT say your name. To Nia… we will shout yours from the rooftops!!!”
Singer Janelle Monae used the hashtag and wrote, “You were a sister, a daughter, and meant something important to your entire family and community.”
Actress Rose McGowan wrote, “Indoctrinated hate is a deadly weapon. #NiaWilson #SayHerName.”
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“My heart is heavy and I promise I will stand with my sisters,” she wrote. “I will stand up and scream. I will demand justice for Nia.”
Cowell’s family issued a statement to KRON saying Cowell, a parolee with a long criminal record, had a history of mental illness and that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
The family said after Cowell was released from Atascadero State Mental Facility he didn’t have a place to go because “most of the mental institutions had been shut down” and he was living on the street.
“This is in no way an excuse for this senseless and vicious attack,” they said.
Cowell is currently being held without bail at the Santa Rita Jail, jail records show. He is scheduled to be arraigned Friday. It was not immediately clear if he has retained an attorney.