The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

Hate speech becomes hate crime

It’s happened again. On Saturday, Oct. 16, 11 people were shot to death in a Pittsburgh synagogue. 

Robert Bowers, 46, went into the Tree of Life synagogue, shouted racial epithets and proceeded to gun down everyone in site shortly before 10 a.m.. Other than the 11 fatalities, six people were injured and four of those were responding police officers.      Bowers is charged with 29 counts related to federal hate crime legislation, including 11 counts of using a firearm to commit murder. 

These charges include multiple counts of two hate crimes: obstruction of the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death and obstruction of the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer, according to CNN. 

Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich spoke with reporters following the shooting and said, “These incidents usually occur in other cities. Today, the nightmare has hit home in the city of Pittsburgh.”

Authorities have released the names of the victims ranging from 54 to 97-years-old. Richard Gottfried, 65, Rose Mallinger, 97, Joyce Fienberg, 75, Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, Cecil and David Rosenthal, 59 and 54, Bernice and Sylvan Simon, 84 and 86, Daniel Stein, 71, Melvin Wax, 88, and Irving Younger, 69, all were murdered at the hands of an unhinged anti-semite. 

Last Tuesday, President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited the Tree of Life Synagogue to pay their respects and listen to Rabbi Jeffrey Myers.

 Rabbi Myers said that hate speech led to the massacre, and politicians are to blame for the amplification of hate speech.
       It’s often argued that the first amendment protects hate speech, but this shouldn’t be true. Hate speech promotes violence and empowers hate groups, leading to incidents such as the synagogue shooting. 

The 2016 presidential election caused a great divide in the nation, and with it, hate speech is beginning to resurface more and more. 

This is not all to blame on President Trump, but his continuous use of divisive comments and tweets is setting a disparaging standard for the future.

FBI Director Christopher A. Way testified to a Senate committee earlier last month and according to him, the FBI is investigating 1,000 cases of domestic terrorism. Wray went on further to state, “We have assessed that that’s a steady, very serious threat.” 

Within those 1,000 cases being investigated, the data shows that hate crimes are rising. According to the FBI, a hate crime is a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity.”

The earliest data available is from 2016, in which 6,121 hate crimes motivated by bias were recorded. 

According to Brian Levin, Director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University San Bernardino, hate crimes reached an all-time low in 2014, but since 2016 they have steadily risen

20 percent of all hate crimes in 2016 targeted religion, with the bulk of those being anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic.  

In the past five years, the Annual Security Report for Sonoma State showed that there were no hate crimes reported in 2015 or 2016 and that in 2017, “there was one intimidation incident on campus characterized by race bias.”

Although hate crimes are not regularly reported at Sonoma State, it’s important to recognize the influx in news media over the past few years. 

Donate to Sonoma State Star

Your donation will support the student journalists of Sonoma State University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Sonoma State Star