A federal grand jury indicted the man alleged by authorities to have killed 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue while spewing anti-Semitic slurs last Saturday. The 44-count indictment charges Robert Bowers, 46, with 11 counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious freedom resulting in death, and 11 counts of using a firearm during a crime of violence.
The maximum penalty Bowers could receive is death. Aside from death, Bowers is looking at life without parole plus 535 years.
“Every American has the right to attend their house of worship in safety,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement released on Wednesday. “The defendant in this case allegedly murdered 11 innocent people during religious services and injured four law enforcement officers. These alleged crimes are incomprehensibly evil and utterly repugnant to the values of this nation.”
Two hours before killing 11 people in the Tree of Life synagogue, Robert Bowers used the Twitter alternative Gab.com to threaten Jews.
Despite the social network’s claim to be “a marketplace for free speech,” Gab.com is widely known to be a forum for the dissemination of hate. The shooting caused a backlash aimed at Gab.com. Several web hosting services declined to continue doing business with the site. It was also refused service by payment processing firms.
Gab.com CEO Andrew Torba lashed out in a statement saying:
“It doesn’t matter what you write. It doesn’t matter what the sophist talking heads say on TV. It doesn’t matter what verified nobodies say on Twitter. We have plenty of options, resources, and support. We will exercise every possible avenue to keep Gab online and defend free speech and individual liberty for all people.
“No-platform us all you want. Ban us all you want. Smear us all you want.
“You can’t stop an idea.”
On its now defunct website Gab says it cooperated with authorities to provide the information needed to identify and arrest the shooter. Torba said the site is looking for a new internet provider, and is “working around the clock to get Gab.com back online.”
“That might not be easy,” said Kevin Seraaj, publisher of the Orlando Advocate news. “Not everyone wants to be associated with hate. It may be important to some people– more important even than their friends– but losing customers and money is, simply put, not the American way.”
Bowers killed 11 people Saturday who were attending a Shabbat religious service. He first posted his anti-Semitic messages and conspiracy theories about Jews on Gab.com.
Bowers wrote: “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
HIAS is the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society– a nonprofit organization that helps Jewish refugees relocate to the U.S.
Gab.com was created as an alternative to Twitter. White supremacists made extensive use of the site which welcomed them with opened arms. There they were allowed to vent and communicate their deadly agendas with one another.
On September 19, Gab.com launched a fund-raising drive to raise operating capital for the business using the website StartEngine.com. It met its original goal of $1,070,000 with donations from 1,279 investors totaling $1,068,484.87. After Bowers’ atrocity, though, as authorities and the media pored over his life, his postings on Gab came into light. A photo of three handguns Bowers called his “glock family,” and a bio in which he wrote, “jews are the children of satan” were released.
Gab quickly lost both investors (down to 1,240) and money (about $31,000), and investors concerned about being associated with hate could continue to pull out.
Saturday’s mass murder was the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in U.S. history. Bowers is presently in custody, facing 44 charges.
Hate in the U.S. is on the rise. According to the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, the number of anti-Semitic crimes in the U.S. rose a whopping 57 percent in 2017. Hate crimes directed at blacks continue unabated as well– aside from the official killing of blacks by cops. On Wednesday, Gregory Alan Bush shot and killed two Black victims, Maurice E. Stallard, 69, and Vicki Lee Jones, 67, at a Kroger store in Louisville Ky., and told a white bystander “Whites don’t kill whites.” Just 15 minutes before he went into the store, Bush unsuccessfully attempted to enter a predominantly Black church.
Whites who are perceived as sympathizing with black/minority causes (i.e., Democrats) are also being targeted. On Friday, Cesar Sayoc was arrested for mailing the 13 homemade bombs sent to Democratic politicians known to be critical of Trump, including Rep. Maxine Waters, Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, and to those who support Democrats, such as billionaire activist George Soros.