11 people have died and six were left injured in what is believed to be the deadliest anti-Semitic attack committed on American soil, leaving the historically Jewish community of Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighbourhood at an unspeakable loss.
Armed with a Colt AR-15 rifle and three handguns, the suspect identified by police as Robert Bowers opened fire on the Tree of Life synagogue for 20 excruciating minutes during a Sabbath service.
Following the attack, Bowers engaged in a gunfight with police officers, wounding four officers and two civilians at the scene before eventually surrendering and being taken into custody.
Bowers will face 44 federal charges — 32 of which are punishable by death — including “11 counts of obstruction of the free exercise of religious belief resulting in death and use of a firearm to commit murder during a crime of violence.”
Described as a close-knit community prior to the shooting, the residents of Squirrel Hill have banded together in support of one another and those they have lost, but Pittsburgh has found itself divided over Mr. Trump’s recent visit to the heavily Democratic city.
While some residents welcomed and commended his visit, hordes of protesters were there to meet Mr. Trump, First-Lady Melania Trump, his daughter Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner.
Many protesters believe that Mr. Trump’s usual rhetoric gave rise to and empowered, or at the very least excused, Bowers’ actions, noting “‘the dotted line’ between presidential rhetoric and violence.”
According to The New York Times, soon after the shooting Trump commented that the Synagogue should have had armed security onsite.
“It was just a worthless thing to say,” said Steven Halle, nephew of the late Daniel Stein, a victim of the shooting. “When something tragic has happened, you don’t kick people when they are down. There should have been an apology.”
Two of the many protesters that met Trump held firm in their sign’s message: “President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you commit yourself to compassionate, democratic policies that recognize the dignity in all of us.”
Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash
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