NEW YORK – Fourteen Jewish activists were arrested on Tuesday after they blocked the entrance to the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York and called on the GOP to denounce white nationalism.
The protest was organized by a collection of Jewish progressive organizations under the hashtag #WeAreHerein the aftermath of Saturday’s massacre that killed 11 in a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
“Trump and the GOP are directly responsible for the wave of white nationalist terrorism sweeping the country," wrote Yotam Marom, one of the organizers, in a call to action before the event. "The white nationalists in the streets have been empowered by the white nationalist in the White House and the entire GOP that props him up," he continued, adding that "It’s time for us to do something about it, as Jews." Marom is one of the fourteen activists who were arrested at the event.
Eleven people were murdered Saturday at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The shooting victims inlcluded eight men and three women ranging in age from 54 to 97 and included brothers and a husband and wife. The perpetrator, 46-year-old Robert Bowers, who was a white nationalist, yelled "all Jews must die" before opening fire.
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Shimri Zameret, one of the protesters, told Haaretz that the activists hope that the action will inspire similar protests across the country in the following days. “The action was born out of the feeling that because of our history, Jews have an important role in the fight against fascism," he said.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump landed in Pittsburgh to pay his respects to the Jewish community while thousands rallied to protest his divisive rhetoric, which many in the city believe contributed to a national climate of hate that gave rise to the attack. Protesters in Pittsburgh held signs reading "President Hate, leave our state," "Words matter," "Ban assault rifles, Be a leader" and "Trump will lie about this too."
Protest organizers said Trump's frequent tweets about the caravans of Central American migrants traveling through Mexico en route to the United States may have been a factor in provoking Saturday's bloodshed. They noted that Trump has characterized the caravans as an "invasion" while falsely stating they harbor terrorists and are financed in part by Democrats and the Jewish philanthropist George Soros.
In a social media post on Saturday, 46-year-old accused gunman Robert Bowers referred to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a Jewish refugee aid organization, as helping to "bring invaders in that kill our people," declaring: "I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in."
The presidential visit, which sources said congressional leaders of both parties declined to join, came as thousands of mourners attended the first funerals for victims of Saturday's massacre, the deadliest attack ever on American Jewry. The president paid a brief visit to the Tree of Life temple where the shooting rampage occurred, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump.