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Fear, uneasiness in aftermath of mass shootings

By Rhodesia Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Aug 14, 2019 - 10:28:32 AM

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Mourners visit a makeshift memorial for the slain and injured victims of an Aug. 4 shooting that occurred in the Oregon District of Dayton, Ohio. Ever since “Boston Strong” became a rallying cry after the Boston Marathon bombing, the idea of “strong” has become an inescapable part of how this country heals after tragedy.

“El Paso strong and Ohio strong” is the mantra circulating across the country in the wake of two mass shootings that in less than 24 hours took the lives of at least 32 people. It is this country’s 251st mass shooting this year, which is generally defined by the FBI as a multiple homicide incident in which four or more victims are murdered within one event and in one or more locations in close proximity.

The mantra is meant to encourage the many families reeling from the tragedies that occurred the morning of August 3, when Patrick Crusius, 21, opened fire in an El Paso Walmart and Connor Betts, 24, shot into a crowded bar over 1,500 miles away in Dayton, Ohio, on August 4.

However, while many agree that those impacted are strong and resilient, some are frustrated that the phrase has become a #hashtag.

“How many more cities will have to put their hometown in front of the word ‘strong’?” asked Jose Salazar, a resident of El Paso. “What we need is strong leadership. What we need is strong gun laws. What we need is a president that won’t be afraid to admit and call this what it is, genocide.”

Exactly one week after the El Paso massacre, members of the League of United Latin America Citizens, one of the largest Latino civil rights organizations, held a demonstration, Aug. 10. Hundreds showed up to the march to demand that Texas governor Greg Abbott pass stricter gun legislation, particularly a ban on assault weapons like many used in mass shootings. The march ended at the El Paso county courthouse where the suspected Walmart shooter is currently being jailed.

Domingo Garcia, president of the activist group said what happened in El Paso was a result of the “hate rhetoric…racism and bigotry that we’re seeing in our political discourse in this election year”.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rouke, an El Paso native, also participated in the march. He addressed the crowd agreeing with the Latino community’s condemnation of Mr. Trump’s “white supremist rhetoric and policies”.

“Our differences don’t define us,” Mr. O’Rouke said to the crowd of citizens dressed in white to symbolize peace. “But in fact, makes us stronger. And I think it offers a lesson to a very divided, very polarized country right now being driven further apart every day by a president who operates on fear and paranoia and lies.”

President Donald Trump visited both cities August 7 with intentions to console those in mourning but was met with both protestors and supporters as he arrived. One critic held a sign that stated, “Trump, you are the accomplice of the 8/3/19 attack. You are not welcome.”

Some defended the president stating the El Paso shooting had nothing to do with racism but blaming mental instability as the cause. Then, there were folks who voiced their dislike for the Trump administration, but welcomed him in this instance, stating the cities need the resources he can provide.

None of the eight victims being treated in the hospitals in El Paso agreed to meet with Mr. Trump during his visit. Texas governor Greg Abbott met with state lawmakers representing El Paso, Aug. 7. He announced that the state had more than $5 million in state funds that can aid in mental health services, reimbursing the county for prosecuting the suspect and creating a so-called Family Resilience Center to help families affected by the attack in El Paso.

The city of Dayton released the names of the nine people killed in the shooting. The ages range from 22-57 years old. Several charities and organizations, including the Red Cross have stepped up to help victims and families in the aftermath of the shooting.

These recent massacres have many people on high alert. Since the shootings false alarms have occured in different cities across the nation.

On Aug. 6, authorities reported that when a motorcycle backfired in Times Square in New York, a frantic crowd fled the scene fearing they were in the middle of another active shooter. Some civilians ran into a Broadway theater that was putting on a performance of “To Kill a Mockingbird” leaving the audience screaming and the cast fleeing the stage. The number of people injured from the stampede is unknown.

The same day, shoppers at the Valley Fair Mall in West Valley Center, Utah, began running for their lives when false reports of an active shooter circulated. The sound from a large sign falling is what sent people into panic. No injuries were reported.

Also, on Aug. 6, a “code red signal” which means active shooter, was issued to the employees at the Walmart on Burbank Drive in Baton Rouge. People ran for their lives. However, sheriff’s department investigators reported that witnesses’ testimonies were not accurate. The Baton Rouge police department evacuated the Walmart and closed it following reports of an active shooter. However, the gun shots came from an altercation between two patrons. A bystander was shot but is in stable condition.

Just as recent as Aug. 8, a White male in his 20s entered a Walmart in Springfield, Missouri heavily armed with an assault rifle, a handgun and 100 rounds of ammunition. He wore body armor and was dressed in military fatigues. The suspect was stopped by an armed off-duty fireman who detained him until the Springfield police department arrived. Although, people panicked, the suspect was arrested without incident.

Chris Ayres, attorney for the Crusius family, confirmed that the El Paso shooter’s mother called the Allen Police Department to inquire about the type of firearm—an AK-style assault rifle—her son purchased weeks before the shooting. However, Mr. Ayres said the call was “purely informational” and there was no fear of him doing harm with his legally purchased firearm.

This is one of the reasons why more than 200 mayors signed a letter urging Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to bring to a vote legislation on expanding background checks. However, the NRA said changes to background checks would not have mattered in the El Paso shooting because Mr. Crusius’ gun was legal and there was no evidence that he had a criminal history.

“Our Latino community is in fear,” said Maria Juarez, “in fear that this will keep happening. If the Sandy Hook shooting didn’t change gun laws, what will? What has to happen? My children are afraid to go to school and frankly I’m afraid for them to go to school, or to the store, or anywhere at this point.”

Sandy Hook is an elementary school where a 20-year-old White man opened fire killing 26 people including 20 children between the ages of six and seven, on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut.

Latino representative of the Nation of Islam, Abel Muhammad, agrees that the Latino community is living in fear. “They’re already under the fear of the Trump administration with the deportation, the ICE raids that’s happening, and now they see the emboldened White extremist faction, not just arresting them and rounding them up into these holding areas, but now, literally going out and mass killing our people,” he said. This growing fear was compounded when ICE raids brought the arrest of more than 600 undocumented workers in Jackson, Miss., on Aug. 8. Though at presstime more than 300 were reportedly released, it has not lessened tension and fear.

“Our community is very much in fear,” said Student Minister Abel Muhammad. “These are my uncles and aunts, my cousins, my friends. You don’t want to see your people in that posture. My offering would be to hear the guidance of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan because our feeling of fear is based on us not knowing the nature of these people and not knowing the history of these people, or what they’ve already done to us,” he said.

“We’re victims and we don’t know what we’ve been victimized by or how; and if we at least had that knowledge, I think we would be able to deal more effectively than what we’re dealing with,” he concluded.