Friday, July 3, 2020
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Md. man gets probation for threatening school

A man in Beltsville, Maryland, pleaded guilty to tweeting threats against a high school and will serve a three-year suspended sentence by being on probation for two years and performing 100 hours of community service, the Associated Press reports.

Donald Trump at a rally in June (Gage Skidmore / Flickr CC)

Alejandro Avelar, 20, claims to have intended his threats of mass violence against High Point High School in Beltsville on November 15 as a joke.

According to authorities, he tweeted that he would come to the school’s stadium with an AK-47, pistols, and bombs. It was also reported that Mr Avelar supported Donald Trump and was upset over ongoing demonstrations against Mr Trump’s campaign.

The Trump effect on violence and threats

The rhetoric Mr Trump offered during his long campaign for the White House and some of his picks for top advisers have given rise to this sort of hatred, which spurs violence and threats of a diverse nature, according to multiple news reports.

For example, the Associated Press quoted a Muslim imam in Annapolis, Maryland, as saying that Mr Trump’s election will only make things worse. “It will increase discrimination, it will increase hateful actions, it will increase hatred. It will put Muslims in the corner more and more. We are expecting this,” he said, noting that cars had begun swerving into his path daily as he walks out to collect the mail dressed in his religious attire.

“The Trump campaign engaged in hateful and bigoted rhetoric that targeted Muslim immigrants,” the AP quoted Robert McCaw, director of government affairs at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, as saying. “There is a justifiable level of concern in the Muslim community.”

And Muslims aren’t the only ones experiencing an increase in anxiety after the election. Among Mr Trump’s anti-LGBT picks for cabinet posts is Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos. Her family’s foundation has given millions of dollars to groups working against LGBT equality, including the National Organization for Marriage. Along with her husband, she helped lead a successful ballot measure to ban marriage equality in Michigan in 2004.

They have also donated several million dollars to Focus on the Family, which promotes reparative therapy for gays. In 2001, she told an evangelical conference that her work in public education—promoting school choice—was a way to “help advance God’s Kingdom,” referring to Christianity, according to a report in Politico.

Others in Mr Trump’s leadership team are no more inclusive of students with different sexual preferences than Ms DeVos is.

The president-elect’s pick to head Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, a former Republican presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, has framed homosexuality alongside bestiality and child abuse. (“Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they [North American Man-Boy Love Association], be they those who believe in bestiality, … It’s not something that’s against gays, it’s against anybody who comes along and wants to change the fundamental definitions of … society,” he said in a TV interview.) South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, whom Mr Trump has picked to serve as ambassador to the UN, has spoken out strongly against marriage equality.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who reads more than a daily newspaper. Mr Trump has consistently supported an anti-LGBT agenda, and he has promised to sign the First Amendment Defense Act, which will allow discrimination against gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals on the basis of a religious objection to their lifestyle.

It is this discrimination against Americans, a group that will include several students in our schools, that is only encouraged every time Mr Trump tells supporters that certain people have less of a right to practice their religion than white, heterosexual, Christian males do. This rhetoric and his political choices so far embolden hateful individuals among us and normalize the kind of violence shown by Mr Avelar and experienced by the Muslim imam in Annapolis.

Upon taking office, Mr Trump should not hesitate to distance himself from any agenda that doesn’t include all Americans or that allows discrimination against any human being. So far, it doesn’t look good, and threatening to blow up or shoot up a school is not the way to convince people to listen to what you have to say.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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