By Audrey Feiwell
On Saturday, October 27, during a week charged with acts of deadly gun violence, right-wing extremist white supremacist Robert Bowers walked through the open doors of the Tree of Life synagogue in a Pittsburgh neighborhood. Eyewitnesses report that he held an AR-15 assault rifle and three handguns. He killed eleven congregants and seriously injured six others, including four police officers, before he was subdued.
Bowers is an active member of the ‘free-speech’ social media platform Gab; a popular home to extremists like him. His Gab account has largely anti-Semitic posts. According to Merriam-Webster, anti-Semitism is “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.” Bowers accredits the Jewish population with the US’s influx of immigrants, whom he sees as dangers to US society. The morning of the attack, Tree of Life was holding an open-doors, refugee Shabbat service in which anyone in the community was welcome, and Bowers posted: “[A Jewish refugee organisation–the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society] likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
Officials have declared the resulting massacre the deadliest attack on Jews in US history.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.com
On Saturday night, thousands of people from the Pittsburgh area and across the nation held a non-denominational, candlelit vigil for the lives lost earlier that day, joining family and friends of the victims in mourning.
Angry left-wing Americans turn their focus to President Trump; they claim that his divisive social media posts and speeches inspired Bowers to act upon his anti-Semitism. More than 44 thousand people signed an open letter to Trump, declaring, “President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you commit yourself to compassionate, democratic policies that recognize the dignity of all of us.” Despite protest, Trump flew to the site of the massacre Monday morning before continuing on to scheduled political rallies.
According to Newsweek, “Bowers is due to appear in court and was charged with 11 state counts of criminal homicide, six counts of aggravated assault and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation, as well as 29 federal charges, including obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death.”
He is likely to be tried for the death penalty at the Supreme Court.