Uptick in online hate as Pittsburgh synagogue shooting trial begins second week
“It was language that was very offensive, definitely antisemitic, anti-law enforcement and in support of the defendant of the trial, but absolutely nothing threatening."
Security officials have seen an increase in online hateful rhetoric as jury selection in the federal hate crime trial of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter is set to begin its second week, according to Shawn Brokos, director of community security for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
“With the start of the trial, we noticed right away an uptick in derogatory language,” she said.
The rhetoric was directed at both the Jewish community and law enforcement agencies that have assisted the community, she said. The posts indicated support for the man accused of murdering 11 Jews in the Tree of Life building on Oct. 27, 2018.
The language was found on multiple online platforms, Brokos said. Security officials are monitoring it, watching for signs of escalation.
“I was very pleased to see that our intelligence and law enforcement partners are monitoring this and everybody was on top of it,” she said. “The security platform we have in place is working.”
While Brokos said she wasn’t surprised to see hateful language in support of the defendant as the trial began, she stressed that there are no specific threats directed against the Jewish community.
“It was language that was very offensive, definitely antisemitic, anti-law enforcement and in support of the defendant of the trial, but absolutely nothing threatening, no call to action,” she said. “It was a group of like-minded folks on different platforms discussing their support of the defendant’s actions.”
Brokos said she expects to see more of this type of rhetoric as the trial continues.
The Jewish community should remain vigilant, she said, but should not alter its daily activities.
“I am a big proponent that we need to live our lives, celebrate our faith, heritage and ethnicity,” Brokos said. “The second we stop doing that, then these like-minded individuals have won and that’s not OK — and it’s not who we are in Pittsburgh.” PJC