Congressmen and civil rights organizations call out Trump for fostering white supremacy; call for gun control in the wake of mass shooting.
Two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio within 24 hours over the weekend left the nation shocked and, once again, turned the focus to the rising anti-immigrant ideology that led to the hate crimes that claimed the lives of about 30 people.
The weekend violence dominated the TV talk shows with presidential candidates Beto O’Rourke, a former Congressman who represented the El Paso area, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, queuing up to hold the inflamed rhetoric of President Donald Trump responsible for the violence against the minority communities.
A number of Indian American political and civil rights leaders also condemned the killings and called for more gun control measures.
The weekend of nightmares for Americans began on Saturday morning when Americans woke up to the news of the horrific shootings at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. A young gunman opened fire on an unsuspecting crowd busy with their weekend shopping leaving 21 people dead and dozens injured.
While the country was still recovering from the shock, the news of another shooting came, this time in Dayton, Ohio. The shooter opened fire at a crowd of people gathered at a local bar for a drink. The shooter was killed by police but not before he managed to gun down about 9 people.
The El Paso suspect remains under police custody. Authorities are treating the incident as a case of domestic terrorism.
The two major attacks came a week after shootings in Gilroy (California) Brooklyn (New York) and Philadelphia, all potential hate crimes.
The shootings have led to renewed calls for strengthening the nation’s gun laws and on the need for the country to address a growing wave of white terrorism, which activists see as a direct outcome of many of the current administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Rep. Amit Bera, D-California, rushed to the border in El Paso to see first-hand the conditions at migrant shelters and met members of the Customs and Border Protection and immigration lawyers. “We’re a nation of immigrants and we must do more to fix our broken #immigration system,” he said in a message posted on Twitter.
Bera’s Democratic colleague in the US House of Representatives Rep. Pramila Jayapal said, “Heartbroken. Thinking of trauma caused everywhere as we mourn mass shootings in Dayton, El Paso, Virginia Beach, Thousand Oaks, Aurora, Pittsburgh, Newtown, more. Everyone is affected by this deep-seeded fear that it can happen anywhere.”
Blaming the current anti-immigrant sentiment and white extremism, she pointed out that the El Paso murderer published a “horrific anti-immigrant manifesto” just before the shooting.
Jayapal tweeted: “The El Paso murderer published a horrific anti-immigrant manifesto just before the shooting. FBI is rightly treating this as domestic terrorism. While extremism is on the rise, fueled by xenophobic hateful rhetoric – and directly connected to shootings.”
Tagging President Trump in her next tweet, the Washington Democrat asked the president to: “Show leadership. Unify, stop dividing. People are DYING.” She asked him to immediately:
“- Condemn NRA. Tell McConnell to immediately pass sensible gun reforms.
– Condemn white nationalists.
– Declare emergency on “white terrorism.” Direct FBI to address this crisis.”
Rep. Ro Khanna, who represents California’s 17th congressional district, said, “More lives have been needlessly lost and countless more changed forever due to this weekend’s mass shootings.”
Khanna, who vows to bridge the national divide with a 21st century economic vision for new jobs and more pay in places left behind, was quick to link the shootings to gun control, dismissing the claim of many Republicans that nothing could be done.
“Why are we the only industrialized nation where this happens regularly? America needs gun safety reform,” he asked, reiterating the demand for gun control reforms, a decades-long issue that has hardly dominated either the Democrat or Republic campaign agenda until now.
In a tweet, he suggested a bipartisan proposal to curtail the problem of white supremacy in America. Khanna tweeted: “Here’s a concrete, bipartisan proposal to get something done. I am for an assault weapons ban. But is there any Republican with the courage to say let’s, at least ban these weapons for kids under 25 given the spate of recent mass shootings by men in their early 20s.”
Khanna also took part in a protest on Sunday organized by the Civil Rights Sundays at North Church of Portsmouth.
Joining the chorus of gun control reform advocates, Illinois Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said, “It’s been said so many times after so much loss of life but it must be said again: we must support all those touched by these tragedies while dedicating ourselves to comprehensive gun reform to prevent others from suffering the same fate.”
Neera Tandon, president of the Center for American Progress, described the killings as the results of lack of gun control and prevalence of racism. She reminded the US Senate leadership that a House bill on gun control reforms was ready for it to take up. “New Zealand passed gun safety laws in a week. A House passed bill is ready for the Senate to take it up. It’s the choice of GOP Senators not to. A choice each of them make,” she noted.
In tweets aimed at each senator’s constituents, she said, “Call the GOP Senators. Ask them to pass the House passed bills. It’s not like the senate couldn’t pass these bills. This should be the first thing the Senate does on its return.”
Many Indian American activists minced no words in accusing Trump of fostering a climate of hate. Prominent racial justice activist Deepa Iyer, responding to a tweet by Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, asked her to initiate a conversation with her dad before taking to Twitter.
Ivanka tweeted: “White supremacy, like all other forms of terrorism, is an evil that must be destroyed.” Iyer responded: “Maybe it’s time to have a chat with Dad instead of sending out tweets like this. #Dosomething.”
Several Indian American civic organizations across America are also marking the month of August, remembering the Oak Creek massacre in Wisconsin, where six Sikh worshippers were shot and killed. Sikh American civil and political rights author Arjun Sethi wrote: “August 5, marks the seventh anniversary of the massacre at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, which claimed the lives of six Sikh worshipers. Today hate violence, gun violence and white supremacy continues to terrorize our communities.”
Sethi also blamed Trump for his rhetoric that may be proving to be deadly for immigrants and minorities. He tweeted: “Everyone should be shocked by the news this weekend. White supremacy is terrifying & deadly. But don’t be surprised. Ever since Trump took to the campaign trail, he’s built his hate agenda through his rhetoric sand policy. He openly maligns & targets us every day.”
The civil rights organization South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) underlined the threat of white supremacy. “Horrifying. White supremacy is more than a serious threat. It is literally endangering people’s lives every day.”
Justice for Muslims Collective, a grassroots organization to combat Islamophobia, replied to a tweet by Trump where he wrote: “Terrible shootings in El Paso, Texas. Reports are very bad, many killed. Working with State and Local authorities and Law Enforcement. Spoke to Governor to pledge total support of Federal Government. God be with you all!
The Justice for Muslims Collective replied by saying: “You should be ashamed of yourself. You are the reason these white supremacists feel emboldened to kill people.”
Prominent Indian Americans also tried to channelize Americans to take action to halt the growing gun violence. Author and TV personality Padma Lakshmi tweeted: “We have now daily terrorist attacks in the U.S. #HR8 gun legislation already passed in the House but @senatemajldr refuses to put it to a vote. Our elected leaders continue to prize personal gain over our nation’s safety and we all suffer a collective PTSD.”
The shootings also lead to a widespread campaign across the country with local and national bodies taking to social media and streets to denounce hatred. The weekend also saw hundreds of volunteers from the civil rights organization, Moms Demand, marching on the streets of Washington, DC, calling for an end to gun violence.
It also urged its followers on Twitter to reach out to local senators to demand for stricter checks on gun purchases. Moms Demand tweeted: “Leave voicemails for your Senators NOW. Text CHECKS to 644-33.”