By Debra J. White –
After Donald Trump’s election as president, white supremacists became much more public throughout the USA. White supremacist leader Richard Spencer organized a “Unite the Right” rally at the Charlottesville campus of the University of Virginia for Saturday, August 12, 2017, to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
The mostly young, white and male protesters, holding torches and Nazi and Confederate flags, chanted slogans like, “Blood and soil, you will not replace us, Jews will not replace us.”
At some point during the tense demonstrations that grew larger by the hour, an out-of-town motorist intentionally drove into a crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing one and injuring 19. He was arrested and charged with capital murder and attempted murder. Two state troopers also died when their helicopter crashed while they were surveying the demonstration from the air.
President Trump received a lot of blowback for saying there was blame on both sides. CEOs from major corporations were so upset that Trump failed to take a leadership role speaking out against the violence in Charlottesville that, one by one, they started to resign from the American Manufacturing Council he had established. Trump still refused to accept responsibility for his inactions and disbanded the council.
Since his election, dozens of bomb threats have been made to Jewish community centers across the country. Some, however, were eventually linked to an unstable Israeli-American teenager. Indisputably, hundreds, perhaps thousands of gravestones across the country were vandalized as well.
In January 2017, Trump did not mention Jews, the liberation of Auschwitz or anti-Semitism on International Holocaust Day. Furthermore, he declined to speak at the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial during a two-day trip to Poland in July. Past presidents, both Democratic and Republican, have visited the memorial, which is a tribute to the 750 Jews who defended the ghetto from deportation to concentration camps against the well-armed and much larger Nazi army. Instead, Trump instead sent his daughter Ivanka; although she is a convert to Judaism, it was viewed a slight to the Polish and worldwide Jewish community.
Trump had aligned himself with Steve Bannon of Breitbart News, a publication widely read by white supremacists. Karolyn Benger, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Initiative of Phoenix, says that Jews are concerned and worried about the growing levels of hate in the U.S. since the Trump election. On the other hand, Benger says, “We’ve been through worse, such as the Holocaust, the Inquisition, pogroms, etc. We’ll get through this.”
“The resurgence of Nazi ideals is troubling, and as Jews we are always cognizant of anti-Semitism be it in our home country or in the world,” says Ross Hader of the Arizona Jewish Lawyers Association. They feel it’s important to stand up to hate groups and push back against their efforts. Explains Hader, “Some in our group have felt a renewed duty to be active in this cause by showing up at gatherings such as the Never Again rally held in August. Some in our group are also involved in doing pro bono work, community-building activities or having our respective firms sponsor other philanthropic endeavors. It’s our goal that being active in these ways contributes to representing the Jewish community in a positive light. Our hope is that a byproduct of our work takes the weight out of the stereotypes included in the white-supremacist rhetoric ultimately defeating their movement.”
The Jewish community is just one that has been affected. On February 24, 2017, two Indian engineers stopped at a bar after work for drinks as they often did in Olathe KS. Srivivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani (Hindus in the USA legally) worked at nearby Garmin, a company that makes GPS navigation and communication systems. Adam Purington, 51, interrupted the two men’s conversation and demanded to know their immigration status, yelling “Get out of my country.” The two men did not react but instead sought the assistance of the manager who escorted Purington outside.
A stranger asked to pick up the men’s bar tab and apologized for Purington’s rude behavior. A short time later Purington returned with a loaded gun and started shooting. He killed Kuchibhotla and injured Madasani. A bar patron attempted to intervene and was wounded as well. Purington was captured and charged with hate crimes including murder and attempted murder. Mayor Michael Copeland said he was shocked and saddened by the violence. Typically, Trump didn’t address the crime until a week later when he spoke to Congress.