(TNS) - More than 100 people gathered at a government center in Apple Valley Monday night to send a message to all that they stand against all forms of hate and evil.
“We as a community will not tolerate intolerance and crimes based on intolerance, and we, as a community, stand in solidarity arms locked, ready to defend and protect, every citizen here in Minnesota,” U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald said.
MacDonald was one of more than nine officials who spoke as part of a community meeting in response to the shooting that took place at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The more than an hourlong event discussed a variety of topics including federal hate crimes laws, identifying and reporting hate crimes, and best practices for creating safe and secure houses of worship.
Former U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger took a moment to reflect on the Pittsburgh massacre from his vantage point as both a Jewish person and a law enforcement official.
“It can be too easy for us as Americans to write off those who bring bigotry and hate to our world as crackpots, as loners,” Luger said. “We do that a lot and it's true when an act of violence occurs at a mosque, a synagogue or a church, it's easy to write those people off for that reason.”
Recalling a speech Charles Lindbergh gave in 1941 urging the U.S. not to join World War II, Luger said that Lindbergh blamed many factors, but first and foremost, was American Jews.
“This wasn’t a crackpot,” Luger said. “He didn't even realize what he was saying was anti-Semitic. He was surprised at the backlash.”
Luger urged those in attendance to remember that when they think about hate and bigotry, it is not just “crackpots” or some other person out there.
“It exists right in our community and it always has. Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism, racism, it's there and been with us for a long time,” Luger said. “Our job is to do what we can to turn it around, but you've got to recognize the illness for what it is in order to bring about the cure.”
Referencing both the Pittsburg shooting and the killing of two African-Americans at a supermarket in Kentucky, MacDonald repeatedly said she was deeply saddened and disturbed by events like those.
“These attacks are reprehensible and they are antithetical to what we stand for as a nation and a state,” she said. “Every individual has the right to feel safe and secure in their home, in their community, in their house of worship — no matter who they are, no matter where they worship, no matter where they pray.”
“These events serve as a solemn reminder for all of us in law enforcement and the community that when we stand together and be vigilant against such crimes,” MacDonald continued. “I will not tolerate such crimes to be committed against any individual under my jurisdiction.”
Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Jill Sanborn echoed MacDonald’s words, saying that hate would not be tolerated against the freedom to “believe, live, love and worship how we want.”
Sanborn also said that the FBI was currently not tracking any threat in the U.S. on any house of worship.
“But in order to make those assessments, we need you guys to continue to be our eyes and ears and share suspicious things you may see or hear so we can follow up on this,” Sanborn said. “We need you to report those instances to us so we can get ahead of the hate and look to prosecute and distrust somebody before an attack as heinous as the one in Pittsburgh.”
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