US lawmakers denounce xenophobic attack, bemoan uptick in violence against minorities
By Geeta Goindi
Washington, DC, February 28, 2017 – In the wake of a tragic shooting in Olathe city, Kansas, which left one Indian national dead and two other men injured, the Trump administration is being tested for its fair treatment of minorities as well as its views on hate crimes.
According to police accounts, Adam Purinton, 51, a white US Navy veteran, opened fire in a bar killing Srinivas Kuchibhotla and injuring Alok Madasani, both 32-year-old Hindus originally from Hyderabad, and engineers by profession employed by GPS device-maker Garmin. Reportedly, the suspect mistook the two Indian men for Iranians and yelled, “Get out of my country”. A good Samaritan, Ian Grillot, 24, who tried to intervene was also shot and is recovering in the hospital. Ian personifies the best in America and is being hailed as a hero for standing up to hate.
The shooting happened on Wednesday evening and six days later, President Trump still has not said a word about it. His silence is deafening!
White House press secretary Sean Spicer has called the shooting tragic, but dismissed any link between the President’s rhetoric on immigration and the incident in Kansas. “Obviously, any loss of life is tragic, but I’m not going to get into, like, that kind of – to suggest that there’s any correlation I think is a bit absurd. So, I’m not going to go any further than that”, he told journalists in a press gaggle.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is probing the incident as a hate crime which is motivated by racial or other prejudice. If convicted of the state murder charges, the suspect faces a life sentence of 50 years without eligibility for parole.
The White House spokesperson refused to call the shooting a hate crime. “To right now intimate what the motives are is too early”, Spicer said. “I mean, I guess my point is to sort of jump to a conclusion. We’ve seen that too often in the past — in Florida and other places where people jump to a conclusion”.
President Obama had called the attack by Omar Mateen that killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016, “an act of terror and an act of hate”. Donald Trump, the Republican candidate at the time, criticized Obama for not boldly declaring it “radical Islamic terrorism”.
Spicer reiterated, “Let’s let law enforcement do its job before we start jumping to conclusions”.
President Trump’s silence isn’t sitting well with former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton who tweeted: “With threats and hate crimes on rise, we shouldn’t have to tell POTUS to do his part. He must step up and speak out”, she urged.
US lawmakers have been vocal in condemning the horrific incident. Senator Jerry Moran (Republican – Kansas) was quick to state that he is “very disturbed” by the shooting in Olathe city. “I strongly condemn violence of any kind, especially if it is motivated by prejudice and xenophobia”, he said.
Noting that Kuchibhotla moved to Kansas “to better his life and pursue the American dream”, the lawmaker bemoaned that “his death is a senseless and terrible loss”.
Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (Democrat – Illinois), one of four Indian-Americans serving in the US House of Representatives, said, “The details of this attack have not yet been confirmed by police, but by all accounts, this appears to be an act of hatred”.
The lawmaker lamented that “because of one man’s hate, another man lies dead and two others gravely wounded”.
Noting that the two Indian men “came to the United States to pursue their education, to live and to work”, Krishnamoorthi pointed out, “This was an attack not only on the victims, but on the sense of security of Indians, Indian-Americans, and millions of other people of color across the nation. Along with so many throughout the world, I have always believed in the American dream of our country as a place where regardless of where you came from, the color of your skin, or how you pray, you can build a better life”, he said. “This shooting was a brutal, racial attack on two men, and on the fundamental values of our nation. It follows a spate of hate-motivated attacks on others in this country”.
He urged his colleagues in Congress, US administration officials, and all Americans “to actively work together not only to prevent future attacks, but to directly address the underlying culture and climate which have led to them. Our thoughts and prayers must be with the victims today, but so must our actions”, he said.
Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California, also an Indian-American lawmaker, stated, “Any act of violence fueled by hatred and xenophobia and prejudice cannot be tolerated. I have faith in local and federal law enforcement to justly investigate this shooting as a hate crime”, he said.
The attack has caused widespread sadness, dismay and fear in the Indian-American community, and beyond. Hate crimes and bigotry are on the rise in America. Following the recent US election, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League, to name just a few, have been inundated with reports of racist acts across the country.
About the Kansas shooting, Congresswoman Grace Meng (Democrat – New York) said, “This crime is outrageous and profoundly un-American, and the FBI is rightly investigating it as a hate crime. The recent uptick in racist violence and rhetoric against the South Asian community is alarming and we must speak out against this violence and bigotry”, she emphasized.