By Alex Cordero
Addressing white supremacy at All Saints Church in Pasadena was the ideal location for Congressman Adam Schiff to speak to hundreds of local residents about his stand on issues that are fueling hate crimes. Mass shootings targeting minorities have recently caused an entire nation to take notice and take a stand. Schiff was not alone; he was part of a panel featuring advocates discussing topics like whether white supremacy has become a serious threat to our nation.
“People are feeling now, free to express themselves in the most hateful ways,” Schiff said as part of his opening remarks, “and I know this is church and is a bipartisan department here, but this nightmare cannot go on beyond next year.” The crowd was quick to applaud Congressman Schiff. He continued by describing how efforts to challenge the president have decreased over the span of his candidacy and subsequent presidency.
The president’s comments from his speech earlier this week regarding recent shootings were briefly presented to the panel by Salam Ai-Marayati, president and co-founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. He asked the panel if the president’s talking points on tackling domestic terror are the answer to bringing Republicans and Democrats together to agree.
“It certainly should be, in a normal world it would be. We’re not in a normal world at the moment,” Schiff answered and continued by holding Congress accountable for the lack of courage he says has been fading more and more as the president’s term continues. “My colleagues on the other side of the aisle know how wrong and how repugnant the president’s actions are; they understand the damage that is doing to our country but they refuse to do anything about it.”
Schiff is skeptical that recent shootings may stop the president from voicing racist anecdotes — that some believe are encouraging hate crimes targeting minorities — and believes the only way anything will change is when Congress comes to a realization that voters “are not going to put up with this anymore.”
The ugly truth is this:
White supremacist terrorism is a real and present danger.
When the President and other leaders use racist or dehumanizing language to describe immigrants and Muslims as invaders, angry and isolated men with guns are listening.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) August 4, 2019
He later mentioned, on a more optimistic note, that he truly believes the young generation will lead the way in tackling a lot of issues challenging our country such as gun control, countering white supremacy and domestic terrorism. “Kids are coming back from college and educating their parents, and I think that is very positive.”
Schiff went on to encourage everyone to ask where they can be at most value on platforms combating white supremacy ideologies. “The beautiful thing is that we can all contribute, and I think our society needs us right now.”
The panelists also discussed violent crimes committed against religious groups which could potentially lead to placing armed guards in places like mosques and temples as a solution to ease people’s fear of attending places of worship. Panelist Brooke Wirtschafter was clear in expressing her opinion on the subject, “I think that the furthering of securitization of our worship spaces does tremendous harm.” She went on to further describe that perhaps armed guards may help people feel better about coming to a place of worship but it may not necessarily keep them safer and the only way to fix violent crimes against religious groups “is getting rid of the guns, and building relationships with our partners across this country and by taking on the culture of white supremacy and violence.” Wirtschafter and her family are members of IKAR (ikar-la.org), a Jewish community based in Los Angeles.
It goes without saying the narrative of this forum was somber but necessary in order for our communities to learn how to create a coexisting culture that speaks to everyone regardless of sex, race or religion. The fact that All Saints Church was filled with people all the way up the balconies of the church speaks about local residents’ stand on our current political climate and hate crimes.
But there was one loud expression from an individual in the crowd against Congressman Schiff. “White supremacy is inside the White House! But you can’t hold the president accountable for his violations of the law!” the man shouted in anger and he was immediately escorted out.
As the forum came to an end and people were exiting, I approached some of the visitors and asked what they thought about the man who confronted Congressman Schiff, and I received mixed responses.
Jim Jensen, a local resident, expressed sympathy. “I’m sorry he felt that he needed to do that but I certainly understand how you can be that passionate.”
Panelist Salam Ai-Marayati expressed his opinion, “I believe we should do things in a civil manner, I may agree with some of his views about having a white nationalist in power and that you have to challenge him (President Trump), but I definitely disagree with his attack on the congressman.”