US Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday issued a statement on the occasion of the third anniversary of the anti-Semitic shooting attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
“In our country, everyone has the right to go to work, to go to school, to walk down the street, to pray – not as the other, not as them, but as us. When a white supremacist murdered and injured innocent people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, a harm was committed against all of us. It was an unspeakable act fueled by antisemitic hate, the deadliest attack on the American Jewish community in our Nation’s history. As we remember the victims, we also honor the courage of the first responders,” she said.
“Today, we know that silence is not an option. More hate crimes were committed in the U.S. last year than at any point in the last 20 years. Our Administration has laid out a comprehensive strategy to address domestic terrorism, and we are working to reduce gun violence. President Joe Biden has taken executive action to protect houses of worship, and he has signed legislation to bolster our capacity to counter unlawful acts of hate.”
“We stand in solidarity with the Squirrel Hill community and the entire Jewish community. We will never forget those lives that were taken. And we recommit to combat antisemitism wherever it exists,” concluded Harris.
Earlier on Wednesday, President Joe Biden released a statement on the third anniversary of the attack.
“Three years ago, on a peaceful Shabbat morning, a lone gunman stormed into the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood and stole the lives of 11 souls in prayer. Eleven others managed to escape — some with serious physical injuries, others with indelible scars of grief,” he said.
“The attack was the deadliest act of antisemitism in our nation’s history. It was an assault on members of the Tree of Life, New Light, and Dor Hadash congregations, the American Jewish community, and our country. And it was a reminder that hate never goes away, it only hides; and if we give hate oxygen, it can consume.”
“That day and those that followed remind all of us to embrace the better angels of our nature – and to turn pain into purpose. We must always stand up and speak out against antisemitism with clarity and conviction, and rally against the forces of hate in all its forms, because silence is complicity. We must recognize in others our shared humanity and strive to summon unexpected faith in unanticipated moments — in the hope that we might heal and rebuild,” said the President.
“That continues to be the work of my Administration — laying out our country’s first-ever comprehensive strategy to address domestic terrorism, signing legislation aimed at strengthening our efforts to counter unlawful acts of hate, taking executive actions to protect houses of worship, and pressing forward with executive and legislative action to reduce all forms of gun violence,” he added.
The shooter in the 2018 attack, Robert Bowers, is charged with killing 11 congregants in the October 27, 2018 attack, and injuring six others, including four police officers.
The shooter was armed with an AR-15 and three handguns and allegedly yelled “I want to kill all Jews” during the attack.
He was initially indicted on 44 counts. In January of 2019, a federal grand jury added 19 charges to the 44 counts previously levied against Bowers. He has pleaded not guilty to all 63 federal counts.
The US Justice Department has said it will seek the death penalty for Bowers, whose attorneys have argued that the death penalty would be unconstitutional.