A week of tragic and bloody violence in the US has seen 13 people die, six injured and a number of individuals threatened with violence within 72-hours. All attacks came with a similar theme: one of an ideology of hate for others. The events have called into question the roles of hateful rhetoric in politics as well as gun control laws in the US.
The week of violence in the US started with the shooting of two African-Americans in a supermarket in Jeffersontown, Kentucky. The accused, Gregory Bush was said to have attempted to enter a predominantly black church prior to shooting the two victims in a Kentucky Kroger store. The attacker is said to have a history of mental illness and was heard making racist remarks before opening fire. The victims of the deadly attack were Vickie Jones, 67, and Maurice Stallard, 69, who was with his 12-year-old grandson at the time of the shooting.
America’s week of violence continued with the arrest of a 56-year old man who had been on a campaign of eliminating those that opposed current US President Donald Trump. Cesar Sayoc sent mailbombs to a number of victims including, former US President Barack Obama, George Soros, Hilary Clinton and actor Robert De Niro. By Friday authorities had counted 14 mailbombs that had been sent by Sayoc. As a result, he now faces up to 48 years in jail on five charges including mailing explosives and threatening ex-presidents.
In response President Trump appeared to accuse the media of exploiting this case. Speaking at a rally in North Carolina he said,
“I heard he was a person that preferred me over others. There’s no blame, there’s no anything,” Mr Trump said.
Others in America placed at least part of the responsibility with President Trump. Former intelligence chief James Clapper, one of the recipients of Friday’s packages, told CNN:
“This is definitely domestic terrorism, no question in my mind.”
“I’m not suggesting a direct cause-and-effect relationship between anything he’s said or done and the distribution of these explosives. But I do think he bears some responsibility for the coarseness of civility of the dialogue in this country,” he added.
On 27 October in yet another shocking display of hate, a 46 year-old man, Robert Bowers, opened fire on a synagogue in Pittsburgh during its sabbath service instantly killing 11 people and wounding 6 others. Bowers was reported by US media to have shouted, “All Jews must die” as he carried out the attack. His social media posts were also said to be full of anti-Semitic comments. He was a subscriber to Gab a social media forum popular with white nationalists. His account suggested that white Americans and “Western Civilization” were “headed towards certain extinction”, and that Jewish and Muslim people were to blame.
Johnathan Greenblatt head of the ADL (anti-Defamation League) a Jewish NGO that campaigns again anti-Semitism said,
“We believe this is the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States.”
Bowers has now received 29 charges, including obstructing the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death, 11 counts of using a firearm to commit murder, weapons offences and seriously injuring police officers.
Trump responded to the week by saying,
“It’s a terrible, terrible thing what’s going on with hate in our country and frankly all over the world,”
But his response did nothing to quell the heated debate on gun control in the US. He then went on to make a heavily criticised suggestion that the incident could have been avoided if the synagogue itself had been armed and. He went on to say that the synagogue attack had “little to do” with US gun laws.
“If they had protection inside, maybe it could have been a different situation.”
His comments have been met with heavy criticism. Adam Schiff, a Democratic congressman from South California responded to the president’s suggestion that the synagogue should have been armed by saying, “That’s not the answer.” He continued,
“The broader issue is what kind of climate are we creating in the country.”
Former President Barack Obama took a rather different stance stating in a tweet,
“We have to stop making it so easy for those who want to harm the innocent to get their hands on a gun.”
Turkish president was one of the first world leaders to condemn the attack. He posted on his twitter account:
“I condemn the terror attack against a Pittsburgh synagogue and extend my heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and to the American people,”
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt was the first senior statesman to publicly comment on the shooting.
“Terrible tragedy at Pittsburgh synagogue made even worse by the fact that today is International Freedom of Religion Day,”