Posted by Tess Waggoner on August 05, 2019 in Blog

Today marks the seven-year anniversary of the white supremacist mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, which killed six people and wounded others. We mark this devastating anniversary in the midst of a new tragedy, as the nation reels from back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, which killed 29 people and injured many. The El Paso shooting, which left 20 dead and dozens wounded, appears to also be motivated by white supremacy, as the shooter allegedly published a manifesto decrying the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” Law enforcement should investigate a potential bias motivation in the Dayton shooting as well, where 9 were killed and dozens wounded. 

Responding to these attacks, on Monday, August 5, 2019, Maya Berry, Executive Director of the Arab American Institute, made the following statement:

"While the President condemned white supremacy in his statement on the shootings today, that statement is at odds with his rhetoric over the years: from suggesting ‘very fine people’ were among the white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville, to proclaiming that four women of color in Congress should ‘go back’ to the ‘crime infested places from which they came,’ and beyond. At present, the President’s re-election campaign has run over 2,000 political ads on Facebook using the term ‘invasion’ with respect to immigration, language that the El Paso shooter himself allegedly invoked."

Berry continued, 

"We are shocked and deeply saddened by the mass killings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas, and mourn with the victims’ families. We also cannot ignore the urgency of dealing with the rise in white supremacist violence in our country, starting with the President’s rhetoric. This rhetoric is utterly unacceptable from the top leadership of our country, has real-life consequences for millions of people, and prevents us from addressing the serious threat of white supremacy to our communities, and our unity as a nation.

Our elected representatives must take concrete steps to counteract the culture of bigotry and violence under which such attacks continue.

The first step for Congress must be to finally enact firearm reform policies, including addressing assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

Second, lawmakers and law enforcement agencies in Washington and state capitals across the country must work together to address the increase of hate crime in our country. 

Lastly, we must be cautious to avoid actions which give greater power to agencies that have historically abused their authority to stigmatize and marginalize targeted communities. The federal government already has the necessary tools to combat white supremacist violence with sufficient vigor, including 57 federal criminal statues already defined by Congress as 'federal crime[s] of terrorism.' The administration needs to re-prioritize federal resources to concentrate on the real threat of white supremacy."

 Today in remembrance of those who lost their lives in Oak Creek and all victims of gun violence motivated by bigotry and xenophobia, we stand in solidarity with all persons seeking to make real the possibility of the pursuit of happiness, free from hate, incitement, and mass violence. Our resolve to combat bigotry is unshaken.