White supremacist kills 11 at synagogue following hate-filled week of mail bombs and Black people executed at Kroger
In the same week which has seen the attempted mail bombing of prominent Democrats including Barack Obama and Maxine Waters and the shooting of two Black customers at a Louisville Kroger, there has been yet another attack by an alleged white supremacist. This time the target was a Jewish synagogue and community in Pittsburgh.
On Saturday, Robert Bowers was charged following the terrorist act of shooting and killing 11 people at the synagogue on Saturday. Bowers allegedly told officers who arrested him “They’re committing genocide to my people, I just want to kill Jews.”
According to the New York Times, Bowers was a quiet man who did not loudly or boisterously announce his anti-Semitism to his neighbors, but instead constantly spewed his violent and anti-Semitic rhetoric online. Bowers illustrated the “benign” or quiet racist, who may not outwardly display it, but is a seething cauldron of violent racism.
Neighbor Kerri Owens described her impressions of Bowers to the New York Times, telling reporters, “It’s very unsettling knowing all that stuff that was used to hurt those people was on the other side of the wall… I didn’t see any signs. I can’t even comprehend that he had that much hate and seemed so normal.”
For months, Bowers, who had seemingly been radicalized by the rhetoric of American president Donald Trump, unleashed torrents of anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic hate speech and conspiracy theories on the website Gab, which has become a popular forum for white nationalists. Bowers carried out his attack using three handguns and an AR-15 style assault rifle.
Before their game against the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers displayed an alternative logo which features a “Star of David” in place of one of the diamonds on their helmet designs, and the words “Stronger Than Hate” beside the logo. Defensive lineman Cam Heyward expressed his concern for the members of the community on Twitter and revealed that he used to live in the Pittsburgh community of Squirrel Hill where the Tree of Life synagogue was located. “Used to live right in Squirrel Hill. There are so many great people in the community. Please everyone get shelter and stay safe.”
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto called the attack “the worst day in Pittsburgh history” before countering the narrative put forth by Donald Trump that armed guards would have helped, despite the facts that there were armed men at the synagogue. Peduto told the Washington Post, “The approach we need to be looking at is how we take the guns — the common denominator of every mass shooting in America — out of the hands of those looking to express hatred through murder.”
The attack on the Jewish community and the synagogue which unites it was immediately labeled a hate crime by law enforcement officials. Robert Jones, the special FBI agent over the case told the Washington Post that this is “the most horrific crime scene I’ve seen in 22 years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” Bowers engaged in a fire-fight with officers and wounded four before he was finally arrested by the police. In addition to the 11 dead, 6 people were wounded.
Bowers will face his first hearing on Monday and is facing a minimum of 23 state charges which include homicide, attempted homicide, and aggravated assault against police officers. In addition, he faces 29 federal charges.