Beyond the Bricks: Week of 10/29
by Abby Bratton | published Nov. 4th, 2018
Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting
11 people were killed in an attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Oct. 28, 2018. Six others were injured. The gunman was identified as Robert Bowers and faces 44 charges including counts of murder, hate crimes and obstruction of freedom of religion. Bowers may face the death penalty and has pleaded not guilty. According to BBC News, Bowers made anti-Semitic threats both upon entering the synagogue and following his arrest. Social media accounts registered under his name were found to contain anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant content.
Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of the Jewish non-governmental organization The Anti-Defamation League, released a statement referring to the shooting as “the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States.” He went on to say that “unfortunately, this violence occurs at a time when ADL has reported a historic increase in both anti-Semitic incidents and anti-Semitic online harassment.”
The victims of the attack were identified as Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger. The first funerals for the victims began on Tuesday and vigils are currently underway across the nation.
Jair Bolsonaro Wins Brazilian Election
Jair Bolsonaro was elected as the president of Brazil on Oct. 29, 2018 after winning 55.2 percent of the vote. Bolsonaro is the far-right leader of Brazil’s Social Liberal Party, and some media groups have called him the “Trump of the Tropics." BBC News refers to him as “a deeply polarizing figure who has had a divisive effect on Brazilians with both supporters and opponents taking to the streets to make their voices heard.”
Bolsonaro campaigned on promises to crack down on crime and investigate the wide-scale political corruption continues in Brazil. The investigation, Operation Car Wash, has been underway for four years and led to the conviction of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Bolsonaro also emphasized a need for increased public safety in the nation, as well as his intentions to relax laws on gun regulation.
Bolsonaro has been criticized by many for his antagonistic stance on social issues ranging from racial inequality to discrimination against women to LGBTQ+ rights. Others cite controversial statements he has made in support of dictatorship and torture. Amnesty International said that “[Bolsonaro’s] election as Brazil’s president could pose a huge risk to Indigenous Peoples and quilombolas [descendants of Afro-Brazilian slaves], traditional rural communities, LGBTI people, black youth, women, activists and civil society organizations, if his rhetoric is transformed in public policy.”
Sri Lankan Parliament Summoned to Reconvene
President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena has summoned the country’s parliament to convene next week. This follows a political crisis that began when Sirisena fired Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his Cabinet on Oct. 26, 2018. Sirisena attributed the decision to Wickremesinghe's involvement in an alleged assassination plot against him, which Wickremesinghe denies. Police are investigating the plot but have not made any arrests.
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed as the new prime minister, but Wickremesinghe refuses to leave the post. Both men claim to control the majority of Parliament members. The legislative body itself was temporarily suspended amidst the upheaval, with an initial plan to reconvene in mid-November. The date was moved to Nov. 5, 2018 as pressure on Sirisena to resolve the turmoil grew, both from the international community and from thousands of protesters who gathered in the streets of the capital on Oct. 30.
A shooting at the Sri Lankan Petroleum Ministry on Oct. 27 that resulted in the death of two people has been connected to the crisis, The Associated Press reports.