“We need to concentrate on the issue of domestic terrorism the way we do with international terrorism,” Congressman Schiff said in Pasadena on Monday night
Published : Tuesday, August 6, 2019 | 5:07 AM
Following a bloody weekend that saw 31 Americans killed in two separate mass shooting incidents – in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio – local faith organizations convened a Pasadena forum Monday night on countering white supremacy which was headlined by area Congressman Adam Schiff (D-California).
Schiff is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee which oversees intelligence agencies such as the FBI, CIA, DHS, and NSA. Some observers say Schiff occupies a unique position to influence U.S. intelligence agencies to deal with all violent extremist groups consistently and treat domestic white supremacists as a terrorist threat.
Schiff and five other panelists—Andre Henry, Reverend Mike Kinman, Omar Ricci, Reverend Susan Russell, and Brooke Wirtschafter—spoke at All Saints Church in a packed sanctuary. The event was moderated by Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
During the event Schiff and others blamed President Trump for creating an atmosphere which fosters racial hate and violence.
But in a statement made earlier on Monday, Trump denounced the shootings, and said, “In one voice our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated.”
Before the event, moderator Al-Marayati explained that “We have seen for too long, in the last decade, the attacks against people of color by white supremacists, starting with the Oak Creek killings where six people were killed, and there have been so many, we’ve lost track. And for too long, there hasn’t been any action or acknowledgement of the threat, and so we are bringing community and decision-makers together to start talking about what policies we need, what advocacy we need, and how we can protect our houses of worship, and our communities, and how to stop singling out people of color.”
Schiff began by telling the packed church, “There is no better antidote to the hate and violence than love and community, which is represented so well by the audience here tonight.”
Acknowledging the weekend shootings, Schiff remarked, “I wish this was not such a timely discussion.”
Schiff continued, “There is no escaping the clear and present danger of white supremacist violence in the United States, and the terrible urgency to confront this,” he added. ‘It’s domestic terrorism, these acts of unspeakable violence.”
Schiff noted that of the 248 mass shootings that have occurred in 2019, 39 were committed by avowed white supremacists, a steady rise over the last three years. He called for tougher gun control laws, universal background checks, and a ban on assault weapons.
“This will save lives,” he said, but noted that “with the weapons in El Paso and Ohio, and Gilroy capable of firing 30 to 40 to 50 rounds in less than a minute,” responders can never respond fast enough.”
“The damage has already been done, and the lives have already been destroyed,” he said, adding, “No one has a reason to have a weapon like this, other than to kill as many people as possible as fast as possible, which is exactly what they did.”
Schiff also called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to stop blocking two active House gun control bills that would close gun registration loopholes and expand background checks.
“Those bills have been waiting around in the House, and they shouldn’t wait any longer,” he said.
Spreading a wider net around the problem, Schiff also demanded the end of online companies who provide technical support for online sites like “8Chan,” where the alleged El Paso shooter posted a manifesto shortly before his shooting rampage.
Schiff added later, “We need to concentrate on the issue of domestic terrorism the way we do with international terrorism.”
While listing a number of specific remedies for the problem, Schiff returned to the president.
Asked what he would say to Trump, were Trump there, Schiff told Pasadena Now, “I would say, ‘Mr President, you bear some responsibility for the tragedies that we have seen over the last several days. Your rhetoric, your dehumanization of people of color, and of immigrants, contributes to a climate in which people who identify with white supremacy feel empowered to act out in the most horrific ways.”
Schiff ended on a positive note, however, saying, “Diversity is our greatest strength. We must stand together against the hate.”
Schiff added that he felt encouraged by young activists in the country, and that the “new generation is bending the moral arc” in a positive way.
In a follow-up discussion, panelist Andre Henry also noted the current state of African-American/police relations, questioning the idea of “rebuilding trust” of the police in the Black community.
‘We are having the same conservations that Martin Luther King had in 1965,” said Henry. ‘When did we ever trust the police? We will trust law enforcement when law enforcement is trustworthy.”
Following the first of the two panels, the event was disrupted by a protester who approached Schiff, screaming angrily and repeatedly, “What are you afraid of? When will you hold the president accountable?”
The protester was quickly hustled out of the church by security.