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“Nation Under Siege”: Nina Turner on Highland Park Shooting & Stopping U.S. Gun Violence

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Six people were killed and at least two dozen injured when a rooftop gunman armed with a high-powered rifle attacked a Fourth of July parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park on Monday morning. The police eventually arrested Robert Crimo III, a 21-year-old white resident of Highland Park and aspiring musician, whose music videos depicted mass murder and school shootings. We speak with Nina Turner, former Ohio state senator and national co-chair of the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign, who says mass shootings in the U.S. are partly fueled by racism, sexism and “toxic masculinity” that equates gun ownership with manhood. “We have neglected to deal with a violent past and a violent present in the United States of America,” says Turner.

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StoryJul 06, 2022Highland Park Suspect Was in Online Communities Where People Are “Programming Themselves to Kill”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Six people were killed and at least two dozen injured when a rooftop gunman armed with a high-powered rifle attacked a Fourth of July parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park Monday. The gunman reportedly fired dozens of shots at parade-goers shortly after 10:00 in the morning. Five of the shooting victims died in the street, a sixth in the hospital. The Chicago Tribune reports the victims ranged in age from 8 to 85.

Eyewitnesses described a scene of terror as parents scrambled to protect their children from the attack. One father, Alexander Sandoval, said he hid his son in a dumpster to protect him.

ALEXANDER SANDOVAL: We were sitting right in front of the stage where the parade announcers were announcing, and it was probably about, you know, 20 to 30 feet away. We were — I thought that it was the Navy that was saluting the flag with the rifles. But then, when I saw people running, I picked up my son, and I started running.

I ran to a niche in one of the buildings of the local shops there, and I tried to break the — I tried to break the glass to get in with my son, and I couldn’t break it. And when the shots stopped again is when we started — we decided we had to run. So, he started shooting again, and we ran behind the building, and I put my son in a dumpster, and he sit there with his dog. And I went back to look for the rest of my family. I left him with someone there so that I can go back to get my phone and find the rest of my family, because they ran away also.

And it was just horrible. I went back. There was a few people shot on the ground, and there was a little boy that was in somebody’s — one of the police officers’ arms. And that’s — that was the worst experience ever, because, you know, all I thought about was my son, and I can only imagine what that family is going through.

AMY GOODMAN: Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker condemned the mass shooting and called for an end to what he called “this plague of gun violence.”

GOV. J.B. PRITZKER: I’m furious. I’m furious that yet more innocent lives were taken by gun violence. I’m furious that their loved ones are forever broken by what took place today. I’m furious that children and their families have been traumatized. I’m furious that this is happening in communities all across Illinois and America. I’m furious because it does not have to be this way, and yet we as a nation, well, we continue to allow this to happen. While we celebrate the Fourth of July just once a year, mass shootings have become our weekly — yes, weekly — American tradition.

AMY GOODMAN: About eight hours after the shooting, police arrested Robert E. Crimo III, known as Bobby, a 21-year-old white local resident who police described as a person of interest, now a suspect. He was detained after a short car chase. He has been described as an aspiring musician who performed under the name Awake the Rapper. He released videos depicting mass murder and school shootings. He also once posted an image on Twitter draped in a Donald Trump flag.

His father runs a local deli called Bob’s Pantry and Deli and ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Highland Park in 2019 against the city’s current mayor.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have now been 315 mass shootings in the United States so far this year. Highland Park has an assault weapons ban, unlike all of Illinois, but apparently Bobby Crimo purchased his gun legally.

We begin our show with Nina Turner, who served as co-chair of the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign, is a former state senator in Ohio. In a moment, we’ll talk with her about another incident of gun violence, the police shooting of Jayland Walker in Akron, Ohio, but we want to begin by looking at the mass shooting in Highland Park.

Nina, thanks so much for joining us again. You know, Highland Park, just days ago, were honoring the Uvalde victims of the mass terror that happened there weeks ago, and we’re going to go to what happened there, go to Texas, later in the broadcast. But you’ve been tweeting nonstop about the Highland Park mass shooting. Can you comment on what took place yesterday on Independence Day?

NINA TURNER: Good morning, Amy and also Juan.

I mean, we are a nation under siege. And this is worse than the wild, wild West, because at least in the wild, wild West, you knew you were going to have to duel with somebody, so people were prepared. These type of mass shootings leaves everybody vulnerable, no matter their age; from an infant to the most seasoned person in this nation is left vulnerable. And when you cannot take your family to a parade, you can’t go to the grocery store — I’m thinking about Buffalo — your babies are not safe in schools — Uvalde — and other incidents over the last past 20 years in this country, we have a problem.

And part of this problem is the gun obsession in the United States of America. And unfortunately, we have too many elected officials who are bought and paid for by the NRA, who do believe that the Second Amendment is more absolute than any other amendment in the Constitution. What happened to the ability to pursue life, liberty and happiness? Part of that means that people should be able to conduct their everyday activities without fear that somebody is going to have a weapon and shoot them.

And for the folks who say that this can happen anywhere, well, you know what? It’s sad that it is primarily only happening in the United States of America. When you compare our country, Amy and Juan, to other industrialized nations, they do not have the same level of mass shootings that we have in the United States of America.

So it is time for these elected officials, especially on the federal level, to stop playing games and to do something about it. And to extend that, we need state, local and regional elected officials, too. One thing for sure, you can’t even rent a car if you’re 21 or 22 years old. We need to increase the age by which somebody can even purchase a weapon, because their brains are not even developed properly yet — and that’s the science — and especially men, Amy.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Nina Turner, I wanted to ask you about this issue of age. So many of these shootings are perpetrated by young white men, 18, 19, 20, 21 years old. Your sense of what is happening in some sectors of our society among young men?

NINA TURNER: Well, Juan, it’s this macho nature. It is really this toxic masculinity that “I’ve got to have a gun,” that — equating gun with manhood, period. That is happening.

And all of the racial animus is bubbling up to the surface. We as a nation have not dealt with racism and xenophobia, you know, antisemitism, anti-Blackness. We just have not dealt with it in this country. And the chickens are coming home to roost, certainly starting with the election of President Donald J. Trump, but all of this was happening in the United States of America before that man was elected. So we cannot sit here and say that it is just because he was elected. We have neglected to deal with a violent past and a violent present in the United States of America, wrapped in white supremacy, wrapped in bigotry in all of its forms, wrapped in sexism, and certainly wrapped in anti-Blackness. And, Juan, until we are willing and able to deal with that, we’re going to continue to have these problems.

And I’m sick and tired, again, of these current elected officials. Thoughts and prayers are good. We need some action. We need some policy changes. That must happen.

And my last point, trauma. People in this country are facing trauma. We need to have a way to help people deal with the trauma that they are facing. I’m not just talking about people who have been diagnosed with some type of mental illness; I’m talking about the heaviness of the trauma of this moment, between the pandemic, between all of these mass shootings, between inflation and people not being able to afford to live. This a traumatic situation. And this problem calls for big policy pushes, such as having Medicare for All, so people can get the services that they need.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And when you talk about doing something, that was the refrain that people told President Biden in Uvalde, and yet here we are once again. Something was done, but obviously it wasn’t sufficient in any way to deal with the scope of the problem of gun violence in America. Your sense of —

NINA TURNER: Juan, what was done? They haven’t even —

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: — what the politicians need to do?

NINA TURNER: Well, Juan, they haven’t even passed the George Floyd Act, for God’s sakes. Democrats begged the voters of this country to put them in. My party told people, “You vote for us, it’s going to be different.” What — there is no — there is not — maybe there is difference in the way that they present, but in terms of material conditions of people’s lives being changed? The George Floyd Act has not passed, right now, in this very moment.

So, what needs to happen, number one, is pass the George Floyd Act. Number two, get rid of the filibuster, stop playing games, so that we can have more things be accomplished in that Senate. And for those talking about “Wait ’til November, vote us in,” we don’t even know if the Democrats are going to still have control come November. We need action right now. People are dying right now. People are in pain right now. And it is not enough for elected officials, who have the power right now in this moment, to put this off. They’ve got to act right now, and act with a sense of urgency. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about the fierce urgency of now. So, let me say to that: the fierce urgency of right now, right now, right now. Use that power.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Nina Turner, online, this suspect, Bobby Crimo, had a vast presence. I mean, this is not like Uvalde.

NINA TURNER: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: He talked about suicide. He talked about mass shootings. He lived — he lived on Discord, yes, on Twitter, on YouTube. He was into fashwave music. That’s “fash” as in fascism. Ben Collins, interestingly, of NBC News made an interesting point. When talking about these loners, he said you can’t call them loners anymore; they have a total community online, and they are egging each other on. And he was very present there as a rapper, rapping about mass killings. If you can talk about both the fact that he got his gun legally, this according to the mayor of Highland Park, who just revealed this, and the fact that he was a presence, though may not have been — the local police not focusing on him? And that may well go to the issue of as the media was trying to decide whether to call this a terror attack, you know, he clearly wasn’t Muslim, and so they veered away from that. But this idea of this being a cell online?

NINA TURNER: Yeah, I mean, Amy, it’s Oklahoma City. You know? That’s this. And this country, again, has a race problem, and white males are treated differently than everybody else. And if his parents — again, even though he was grown, I cannot understand that his parents didn’t see some of this, too. We have a problem that needs to be solved —

AMY GOODMAN: He lives with his father and uncle.

NINA TURNER: in the United States of America. And it — and it’s wrapped with racism and bigotry. And let me say this, too, Amy: He was arrested without incident. This man, arrested without incident, as we compare that to Jayland Walker, which I know we’re going into.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go —

NINA TURNER: We got a problem.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break right now so we can talk about Jayland Walker. Nina Turner, please stay with us, former Ohio state senator, recently a candidate for Ohio’s 11th Congressional seat, former national co-chair of the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign.

Yes, next up, we go to Ohio to look at the fatal police shooting of Jayland Walker, stopped for a traffic violation, shot by police over 60 times. Stay with us.

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