Senate Democrats are calling on Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to call hearings on “the reality of domestic terrorism spurred by racial hatred” in the wake of the South Carolina church massacre.
The attack by white supremacist Dylann Roof, who killed nine people in a Bible study at the historic Emanuel AME Church, “undermined Americans’ confidence that they can be safe in public spaces regardless of the color of their skin,” Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and committee members Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Al Franken (D-Minn.) wrote.
“In addition to being a hate crime, the Charleston shooting also appears to have been an act of domestic terrorism. Domestic terrorism is defined in the U.S. Code as a criminal act dangerous to human life that is intended to ‘intimidate or coerce a civilian population’ or ‘to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction [or] assassination.’ 18 U.S.C. § 2331(5).”
The Democrats wrote that Roof, “through public and private acts filled with racial animus, sought to intimidate African Americans and discourage them from asserting their rights.”
“We often think of terrorism as the sacrifice of innocent lives in service to a murderous ideology, and Roof’s actions were clearly driven by bizarre and perverse beliefs. Indeed, it has been reported that Roof spoke of a desire to start a race-based civil war, and that he told his victims, ‘You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.’ If this same act had been perpetrated by someone claiming a desire to harm Americans in the service of Islamist principles, it would immediately be labeled an act of terror. A violent act motivated by a racist desire to intimidate a civilian population falls squarely within the definition of domestic terrorism,” they continued.
“Dylann Roof’s actions should remind us that America’s effort to root out terrorism must include a focus on violent racism in our own backyard. Homegrown hate groups have engaged in violence against civilians for these purposes throughout our nation’s history, particularly targeting the African American community, and such groups continue to survive and even thrive.”
They requested Grassley hold hearing on hate groups, noting “in the past, mass violence in our country has been explained away as an act of insanity to be treated as a mental health issue.”
“What we saw in South Carolina is about hate, and it is about evil. We must address the reality of domestic terrorism spurred by racial hatred head on… A hearing could investigate how domestic terrorist hate organizations recruit and spread their ideas; how they gain access to the tools that they use to commit violent acts; and how their members and followers reach the decision to commit murder.”