Some House Democrats say New Zealand massacre a reminder of hate at home

Congress reacts to terror attack at two mosques in Christchurch

People in front of the Masjd Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, as they await news on relatives after at least 49 people people were killed in a terror attack on two mosques. (Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

U.S. lawmakers grieved for New Zealand on Friday after a terror attack at two mosques there killed 49 people — and some House Democrats said the episode served as a reminder that Congress must stamp out hate at home.

Mass shootings have plagued the U.S. in recent years, with minority and religious groups often the targets.

The suspected shooter in New Zealand has been identified by Australian police as a 28-year-old Australian-born man who left a manifesto saying he was racist.

The man has been detained.

Hate is “on the rise in America, and throughout the world,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries tweeted Friday.

“We need responsible leadership. And it starts at the top,” Jeffries wrote. 

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler has promised to hold hearings on the rise of racially and religiously motivated violence.

The committee will “examine the causes of racial and religious violence, assess the adequacy of federal hate crimes statutes, and scrutinize targeted domestic surveillance of specific groups,” Nadler wrote in a letter last November to the Homeland Security Department, Justice Department and FBI.

The number of incidents involving hate crimes increased for a third straight year in 2017, the FBI reported in charts and data released In November. Hate crime incidents rose by 17 percent in 2017 compared to 2016. From 2015 to 2016, the FBI reported a 5 percent increase.

Most of the 7,175 cases in 2017 involved race-based bias, though there were at least 1,564 cases that involved bias against certain religions and 1,130 in which people were targeted for their sexual orientation.

The FBI’s findings were released less than a month after a gunman killed 11 Jews celebrating Shabbat at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, the most deadly slaying of Jews in U.S. history.

Nadler, who is Jewish, told Roll Call in an interview last year that, as part of his committee’s hearings on hate-fueled violence, he wants to examine “the extent to which [the rise in hate crimes] correlates with the president’s rhetoric and coddling of white supremacists.”

Some Democrats have said they believe Trump’s campaign rhetoric from 2016 and his response to the violence that broke out at an alt-right rally in Charlottesville in 2017 has contributed to emboldening people to commit hate crimes.

Senators and House members from both parties tweeted out statements of sympathy on Friday for the victims of the mosque shootings in New Zealand and their families.

“Islamophobia and such acts of pure hatred have no place in a civilized world,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California tweeted.

“The United States stands with the people of New Zealand in their hour of need, and we condemn the hatred and bigotry that incited such a horrific terror attack,” her counterpart, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, tweeted.

Trump sent his sympathies to New Zealand in a tweet Friday morning.

“The U.S. stands by New Zealand,” the president wrote, and promised to help with “anything we can do.”


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