With the nation mourning the victims of the sickening hate attack that killed more than 50 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando last night, our shock was compounded as we learned that it could have happened again. Police in Santa Monica, CA arrested a man this morning who appeared to be planning an attack on the LA Pride parade in nearby West Hollywood.
Santa Monica police officers reportedly received calls about a suspicious vehicle around 5 am this morning and, upon investigating, discovered “an arsenal” including several assault weapons, explosive powder, and tactical gear in the car. Police spokesman Saul Rodriguez announced that the suspect was from Indiana, and, although he cautioned that police were “not aware of what the suspect’s intentions were at this point,” he apparently made comments about being in town for the LA Pride festival and about “meeting a friend there.” The LA Pride Parade, a mainstay of the city’s gay community, was scheduled for today as part of Pride Month festivities, and the parade went forward with increased security.
The suspect, who has not been named, is white. While we regret the need to descend into such cynical identity politics and racial and ethnic details should not inform our understanding of hatred and violence, it is a pertinent reminder in the face of shocking right-wing Islamophobia that hatred is not bound by race, religion, or any other factional identity. While conservatives across the country were quick to blame Islam for the Orlando shooting, we can rest assured that no similar sweeping indictment of the white race or the Christian religion will result from the arrests in Los Angeles.
Indeed many conservatives’ condemnations of the attacker’s anti-LGBT bigotry are difficult to reconciled with the religious right’s own homophobia and the contradiction has led to some astoundingly hypocritical statements from Republican politicians. What ultimately becomes clear as a result of both the attack in Orlando and the foiled one in Los Angeles is that the bigoted rhetoric of religious demagogues from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to Mike Huckabee has real and tragic consequences for society’s most marginalized. In attacking the LGBT community in Orlando, the cowardly terrorist was punching down at the most vulnerable, whom he had been taught to fear and hate by a reactionary Islamic fundamentalist ideology.
In the aftermath of such a vicious and inhuman attack we have to reflect on ourselves as a nation. Besides the absolutely critical need to ban military grade weapons like those used in the attack, one of the questions we need to be asking is the degree to which the attacker’s hatred is reflected in our own society, and, as the foiled plot in LA shows, the answer is alarming.
James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.