Sioux Falls, SD, March 25, 2019 – The FBI has been providing active shooter trainings to synagogues, mosques and churches in Sioux Falls over the last month because religious hate crimes are on the rise nationwide, and around the world. A 21-year-old white supremacist shot and killed nine African American Christians in a church. A 46-year-old white supremacist shot and killed 11 Jews in a synagogue. A 20-year old white supremacist drove his car into a crowd and killed Heather Heyer who was protesting a “white national” rally. And a 28-year-old white supremacist in New Zealand shot and killed 50 Muslims who were praying in two different mosques. Hate has no age. Hate is learned, and when hate incidents are brushed off as “pranks”they become missed opportunities for education and accountability which clears the path to escalation.
On March 23, 2019, a group of people burned a swastika into the parking lot of Tuthill Park. This was a well thought out intentional act of hate. We stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters in calling out this fear mongering, hateful act. The swastika represents the intentional and systematic murder of 6 million Jews and others who the Nazi regime determined were not worthy of life. No matter the intention- even if a “childishgame where they didn’t understand what they were doing”- the sight of a swastika evokes fear, pain and concern in every Jewish heart and of their allies in our community. It is time we as a community stop making excuses for the intention of the perpetrator of hate and focus on those severely impacted by these acts. It is time that leaders in our communities – superintendents, mayors, elected officials and police chiefs take these incidents seriously and feel the pain felt by impacted communities. In a state where white supremacy has infiltrated every level: where rodeo clubs hold fundraisers called “slave auctions”; where high schools offer plays including white hooded KKK members on an acting stage; and where elected officials believe that there is only one culture in the state that needs protection from “dilution” of any other culture, our community must act boldly and bravely. These are not isolated incidents. This is what systemic racism looks and feels like. We appreciate the Sioux Falls Police Department’s updates and willingness to meet with us about our concerns. We urge the Sioux Falls Police Department to investigate this arson on public property seriously. Public funds were expended to engage the fire department to put out the flames and cover it up with gravel. Scared neighbors engaged law enforcement and could see a swastika the next morning from their homes. We have reached out to Mayor Paul TenHaken to meet and continue to wait for his response. As the mayor of the most diverse city in SD, we ask him to denounce these hateful acts for what they are – hate. And we call on the community to listen and hold space for impacted communities to share their trauma and be heard.#HateHasNoHomeInSD
We urge anyone with information regarding this incident to report it to local law enforcement: 6053677007. To report anti-Semitic incidents please contact the Anti-Defamation League at www.adl.org who collects national data.
SD Voices for Peace is a nonprofit organization based in Sioux Falls, SD which provides education, legal services and advocacy on issues of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant/refugee bigotry and partners with allies to educate and hold accountable such acts of bigotry in our state. For more information see www.sdvfpeace.org and contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Leaders Engaged and Determined is a nonprofit organization based in Sioux Falls, SD and fights for women and families by mobilizing grassroots political action and training and equipping leaders, with the core values of: Inclusion, Civility, Action, Social Justice, and Empowerment. For more information see www.leadsouthdakota.org
Establishing Sustainable Connections is a nonprofit based in Sioux Falls, SD that provides training and educational tools to combat racism, biases and injustices. For more information see www.escsiouxfalls.org and contact at email@example.com
Members from Sioux Falls Jewish community: Sara Crosby, Jen Dreiske, Matilda Oppenheimer, Gail Klein