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Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Called Domestic Terrorism

The Exchange


The head of New Hampshire's Civil Rights Unit says the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 people Saturday is a case of domestic terrorism. 


Elizabeth Lahey is director of the Civil Rights Unit at the New Hampshire Department of Justice. She joined The Exchange on Monday to discuss the mass shooting in Pennsylvania. Host Laura Knoy asked her if these shootings should be called domestic terrorism.


“I think you certainly can," Lahey replied. "And there’s overlap certainly with the statutes that deal with bias or hate crimes and also terrorism. It’s an act of violence coupled with a mental state, and so whether it’s motivated by race or a political ideology in sort of how we define terrorism, there is overlap. And I don’t think we should be reluctant to call these types of acts terrorism because I think that’s what they are.”

[The Exchange: New Hampshire Responds to the Shooting at a Pennsylvania Synagogue]

Federal prosecutors have filed 29 charges, including hate crimes charges, against Robert Bowers in the attack. Authorities say Bowers made several anti-Semitic comments at the crime scene while being arrested.


Tom White, Educational Outreach coordinator at the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene State college, and Jonathan Spira-Savett, Rabbi for Temple Beth Abraham in Nashua, were also guests on the show to discuss reported increases in hate crimes and incidents of hate speech.


White said the country has witnessed an uptick in violence and anti-Semitic incidents over the past two years, some of it spurred on by the 2016 election and comments that have continued since. "We also have to be very clear that the majority of these attacks are coming from white supremacists who are Americas,"he said. "These aren't Islamist terrorists, these are empowered racists in America who are white with that agenda. And this is sort of a conspiracy of violence of the minority, and I think we have the right to resist it."


Rabbi Spira-Savett said that, while worried about the upsurge of anti-Semitic incidents, he feels safe going to his synogogue and services. "I know and that I see, that Jewish people never had as many allies willing to stand up with us and for us as we do today, I think, in our whole history, and that helps keep me in balance."


Dan is a long-time New Hampshire journalist who has written for outlets including Foster's Daily Democrat, The Citizen of Laconia, The Boston Globe, and The Eagle-Tribune. He comes to NHPR from the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he reported on state, local, and national politics.

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