University of Maryland community members honored people with disabilities who were murdered by their families and caretakers during an annual Day of Mourning on Friday.

The event, started by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network in 2012, was hosted on Zoom by the President’s Commission on Disability Issues at this university. This is the sixth year the university has honored the Day of Mourning, an event that has been observed across the country, according to this university’s Americans with Disabilities Act and 504 coordinator Emily Lucio.

“This significant day has become an important part of the disability rights movement, calling attention to these crimes and helping bring about a noticeable shift in the focus and in the coverage and reporting on the murders of disabled individuals,” Lucio said.

At least 550 people with disabilities have been victims of filicide, or a parent killing their child, in the past five years, Lucio said. In the disability community, filicide is used when talking about a parent, caretaker or other relative killing their child with a disability, she added.

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Filicide encompasses a pattern of violence that starts with murder and continues in how crimes are discussed, justified and excused, according to Lucio. Often, media coverage sympathizes with the caregiver who committed the murder and minimizes the crime they committed, she said.

According to university diversity and inclusion vice president Georgina Dodge, while there is no justification for filicide, valuing caregivers can be an opportunity to prevent it.

Dodge said she hoped the Day of Mourning served as a call to action to support caregivers of people with disabilities.

“Even as we gather today to mourn those lost, we also need to take time to celebrate them through acts of recognition,” she said. “People with disabilities are valued members of our communities.”

People with disabilities can be killed by medical abuse, according to Eryn Star, an alum of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network’s autism campus inclusion leadership academy.

To end filicide, medical systems that dehumanize people with disabilities must be dismantled, he said, adding that the Day of Mourning was an expression of grief for those who did not receive the community care they deserved during their lives.

Star added that transgender people are also often victims of filicide.

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“We’re tired of our people being murdered by their parents, partners, relatives,” they said. “We are tired of the media framing the murders of our people as understandable.”

Volunteers at the Day of Mourning read a list of more than 130 names of people with disabilities lost to filicide in the past year. The ages of the victims ranged from one day to 100 years old.

Chetan Joshi, this university’s counseling center director, led the attendees in holding a moment of silence to honor the victims.

Joshi said it is “utterly unacceptable” when someone tries to eliminate people who do not fit their definition of normal. Filicide can be stopped when people come together to address it, Joshi said.

“The only way we make this stop is by coming together and never forgetting those who have lost their lives in this horrific crime and working together to educate and advocate strongly to put an end to this injustice,” he said.