This past weekend saw two horrific mass shootings, the first in El Paso, Texas and the second in Dayton, Ohio, occurring within hours of each other. The shootings come less than a week after three were killed and dozens wounded when a gunman opened fire at a garlic festival in Gilroy, California. Following the shootings, President Trump’s past and ongoing anti-immigration rhetoric has gained the spotlight and condemned for encouraging acts of violence against minorities.
On Saturday, at approximately 11 am local time, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius opened fire in a Walmart in the Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 and injuring 27. Crusius was specifically targeting Latinx shoppers when he opened fire, according to a relative of one of the victims, and let white and black shoppers leave the store. Less than 24 hours later, in Dayton, Ohio, 24-year-old Connor Betts opened fire in the Oregon District, popular for its bars and restaurants, at 1 am local time, killing 9 and injuring 27. Among the victims was the shooter’s own sister. Crusius was taken into custody, but Bett was killed by police as he tried to run into the Ned Peppers bar.
The grisly shooting carried out by Crusius can be attributed to the president’s divisive anti-immigrant rhetoric. Shortly before carrying out the mass-murder, Crusius allegedly posted a manifesto to 8chan, a message board website popular with extremists, such as the terrorists responsible for the shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand and Poway, California. The manifesto, which can be read in its entirety here, reveals much about the commonalities between the shooter’s beliefs and the president’s violent rhetoric.
This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas. They are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.-Patrick Crusius’s manifesto
Crusius names a “Hispanic invasion of Texas” as the reason for committing this atrocious crime, claiming to be defending his country from a cultural and ethnic replacement. The language used in the manifesto to describe Latinx immigrants is shocking, to say the least, filled with hatred and racism, but what’s more disturbing is the fact that the president of the United States shares these same sentiments. President Trump has repeatedly used the term “invasion” to describe migrants and asylum seekers. The president has described this imaginary “invasion” at the southern border 2 dozen times in the past year. During a recent campaign rally in Florida, Trump used the term “invasion” seven times in less than a minute, according to Vox. Likewise, a recent analysis by the New York Times found that the Trump campaign bought 2,000 political ads that included the word “invasion” to amplify his false claim.
Trump purposely uses the term “invasion” to describe migration in order to evoke a violent, almost militaristic force seeking conquest, when in reality, the vast majority of migrants heading to the US are families who are voluntarily turning themselves in to Border Patrol officers requesting asylum. The president keeps pushing this false “invasion” narrative to further his own political gain. Calling asylum seekers an “invasion”, as well as describing Mexicans as “criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.”, is part of Trump’s reelection strategy, as the aforementioned New York Times analysis found. The president did not create this needless hate, but he is using it and amplifying it as a reelection strategy. He is already using the El Paso shooting to push for hardline immigration reform, while ignoring the root causes of gun violence. The fact that the president’s rhetoric plays into the fears of white supremacists that believe brown immigrants are taking away the power of a white American majority matters little to Trump, so long as he gains voters.
Crusius used Trump’s ideology to justify his own views, believing that the ends justified his means. Crusius believed that killing Latinx people would cause other immigrants to flee the United States, which he believed would result in a more politically and economically sound US. His actions are more than just domestic terrorism, it’s political terrorism. The El Paso shooting is reminiscent of the assassinations of JFK and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in which the perpetrators of those crimes chose their targets because they saw them as threats to the US and by killing them, it would yield a better social state. That is exactly what Crusius believed himself to be doing. He believed that killing Latinz people was doing a service to the United States.
If our country falls, it will be the fault of traitors. This is why I see my actions as faultless. Because this isn’t an act of imperialism but an act of preservation. America is full of hypocrites who will blast my actions as the sole result of racism and hatred of other countries, despite the extensive evidence of all the problems these invaders cause and will cause.-Patrick Crusius’s manifesto
Of course, there are other factors that contributed to the shootings in El Paso and in Dayton. While Crusius’s attack was racially motivated, police have not yet determined a motive in Bett’s attack, however, in both shootings military-grade weapons were used. For far too long the NRA has had their hands in Washington’s pockets, using their influence over right-wing politicians to block even the simplest common-sense gun safety laws, with the help of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The NRA donates millions of dollars to politicians—more than $30 million to Trump’s presidential candidacy in 2016—to ensure their interests take priority over the safety of this country’s people. As a result, military-grade assault weapons are unreasonably easy to obtain, which in turn results in these mass shootings. Meanwhile, GOP politicians are trying to shift the blame from guns to video games, which has long been disproven, mental health issues, which they don’t actually care about and is also patently false, and the president even blamed the press for the shooting.
In his manifesto, Crusius wrote that his views “predate Trump and his campaign for president”. While that may be so, there is no denying that Trump has brought this racist and violent rhetoric to the mainstream, which serves to further reinforce the beliefs held by racist extremists in our country. The president told Crusius that Mexicans are rapists and violent criminal who are taking our jobs, the NRA gave Crusius unreasonably easy access to military firearms, and Crusius carried out his marching orders. The president stokes this fire, fanning the flames of hate. If the Trump regime wants this, it’s up to us to stop it.
(Image: Scott Olson/Getty Images)