US-based Latinos voiced their fears Monday and pointed the finger squarely at President Donald Trump over a gun massacre that appears to be the deadliest hate crime ever committed against their community.
Many said they were still coming to terms with the murders of 22 people on Saturday at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, by a man who traveled some 650 miles (1050 kilometers), reportedly to shoot as many Mexicans as possible.
Eight Mexican nationals are among those killed in what authorities are investigating as a case of possible domestic terrorism. At least 25 people were also wounded.
For representatives of the Latino community, the mass shooting can be directly linked to the hateful rhetoric on minorities that has flourished since Trump’s election in 2016.
“The president’s rhetoric has fanned the flames of discord in this country,” Angelica Salas, head of the Los Angeles-based Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), told AFP.
“And as he prefers chaos, he most likely enjoys seeing conflict between communities rise.”
Dominique Diaz, a resident of El Paso, said the fact that the shooter — identified as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius and in custody — had traveled so far to target a mostly Hispanic region reflected mounting racism and anti-immigrant sentiment in the country.
“It’s pretty difficult to even comprehend,” he said.
For Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the Los Angeles-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the shooting in El Paso, which lies right across the border from Mexico and has a large majority Latino population, amounts to a declaration of war against Hispanics.
“We have moved from being scapegoats to being targets of this kind of senseless racist violence,” he told AFP. “This atrocious act of violence is a declaration of war against our community.”
The tragedy in El Paso was one of three mass shootings in the United States in less than a week.
Nine people were killed and dozens were injured in Dayton, Ohio, hours after the El Paso massacre. Authorities have not determined a motive for the attack.
A week earlier, a 19-year-old gunman opened fire at a garlic festival in Gilroy, California, killing three people, including two children, and wounding a dozen others.
– ‘Empowered white supremacists’ –
The gunman in Gilroy, who reportedly posted racist comments related to the festival on social media, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while the assailant in Dayton was gunned down by police.
Luz Gallegos, of TODEC legal center, an immigrant rights organization in Southern California, said the shootings had sown fear among Hispanics who no longer feel safe.
“The president has changed the law of the land and has empowered white supremacist groups… and given them the green light to act on their hate,” Gallegos said.
Salas said there was no doubt in her mind that people with racist tendencies today felt emboldened, thanks to Trump, to attack people of color or anyone considered different.
“Trepidation has been a much more common feeling since President Trump came to office,” she said.
Still, community leaders said they were encouraging Latinos to stand proud and not succumb to fear.
“The question for me is how we are going to respond, and we are not going to do so the same way because when we have fear and hatred in our heart we cannot defend ourselves rationally,” Alvarado said. “We need to remove the fear and step up and call the attacks as they are — evil and white supremacist.”
As political rivals heaped scorn on Trump over repeated controversial remarks he has made against immigrants, the president on Monday expressed “horror” over the twin weekend attacks and urged the nation to unite.
“Our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy,” Trump said, adding that mental illness was the main culprit for the violence, rather than the ready availability of firearms or extremist thinking.
Colbert names Trump’s siege on DC the ‘Tinyman Square’ incident
It wasn't quite Tiananmen Square, where a still-unknown number of Chinese protesters were murdered by the government in 1989, but it was the closest thing President Donald Trump managed to score this week.
After watching the footage of the military tear gas, beat and shoot at protesters so Trump could march from the presidential bunker to St. John's Church for the cameras.
"It was like Tiananmen Square," Colbert deemed. "Except, in Trump's case, Tinyman Square."
Trump claimed on "The Fox & Friends" that no one was tear-gassed, so it's unclear what was stinging people's eyes and making them cough, choke and tear up. The Park Police released a statement saying it wasn't tear gas. While the moment was captured on video from dozens of different camera angles, one protester actually grabbed a canister of Oleoresins Capiscum, or "OC," the gas that was used.
Vladimir Putin must love watching the US fall apart: columnist
New Yorker columnist Susan Glasser made the astute observation that if Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to destabilize the United States with the election of President Donald Trump, he's clearly achieved his objective.
It was reported in March that Russian intelligence services are working to incite violence using white supremacist groups to try and sow racial chaos in the United States ahead of the November election.
Conservative columnist links all Republicans to the attack on Lafayette Square
Monday afternoon, President Donald Trump decided to walk across Lafayette Square for a photo-op. To get there, however, it took an outright battle with mounted park police, police covered in body armor and rattled Secret Service members who had just rushed the president to the bunker several nights before. Armed with semi-automatic weapons and military gear, they staged a siege on Lafayette Square against unarmed hippies, woke whites and people of color, again, forced to fight for justice.
Writing for the Washington Post Wednesday, conservative columnist Max Boot attacked Attorney General Bill Barr, who accepted responsibility for demanding that demonstrators be tear-gassed, beaten and shot with rubber bullets. Like Bull Conor ordering fire hoses on students marching in Birmingham, Alabama, Barr's attack on Lafayette Square for a photo-op proved he is willing to do what it takes to stroke the fractured ego of a president forced to cower in a bunker.