WASHINGTON — A federal hate crime investigation is underway in Jacksonville, Florida after law enforcement says a white shooter brandishing a swastika on his gun targeted and killed three Black people at a Dollar General store on Saturday.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre addressed the weekend’s violence at the start of the briefing.
“We must say clearly and forcefully that white supremacy has no place in America,” said Jean-Pierre.
Our Washington News Bureau was on a phone call Monday afternoon that provided updates from the FBI, U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) and Jacksonville law enforcement about the shooting.
“I want to be crystal clear from my part. From everything we know now, this was a targeted attack,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “A hate crime that was racially motivated.”
Wray said the suspect’s own writings and actions point to a hate crime.
According to the latest available data from the FBI, reported hate crimes increased 11.6 percent nationally from 2020 to 2021.
That publicly released data does not yet include last year’s deadly mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York supermarket that investigators say was racially motivated against Black people.
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the DOJ Kristen Clarke weighed in on the Department’s response to the rise in hate crimes during Monday’s call.
“We will relentlessly pursue the perpetrators of hate crimes,” said Clarke.
We spoke with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a nonprofit that tracks hate crimes around the country.
“No matter how many times we experience this, the weight of these atrocities never lessens, and frankly I think people also get a sense that it’s getting closer and closer to home,” said Oren Segal, Vice President of the ADL’s Center on Extremism.
According to the ADL, the rise in racially motivated crimes has been especially prevalent in Florida, and the group released a report dubbed Hate in the Sunshine State.
“Since 2020 in Florida, new white supremacist groups have formed, while some existing neo-Nazi and accelerationist groups have broadened their audience through both online and on-the-ground activities,” the report said. “While the vast majority of extremist incidents are tied to white supremacist and far-right extremist groups, anti-government and Black Nationalist extremist groups have also been active in Florida.”
The ADL is urging all people to forcefully speak out against hate crimes and to report these incidents to law enforcement and to the ADL.
“That means elected officials speaking out against hate and extremism consistently and constantly,” said Segal. “That means not being purveyors of conspiracy theories and other ideas that we know helps normalize these ideas.”
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