The Highland Park Shooting Was a Very American Attack

A Klezmer band was just starting to play at the Highland Park, Illinois July 4 parade when the all too familiar sound of an automatic gun fire ripped the day in two. Six people were killed and many more injured when a man on a roof poured shot after shot into the crowd. One victim was disemboweled with the power of the rifle, while a 76 year-old man was killed in a wheelchair.

The Klezmer music was right at home in Highland Park, a Chicago suburb that has a population of approximately 30,000 people. It has been a proud Jewish enclave since the beginning. Highland Park’s demographic composition is not secret. The streets are lined by synagogues, kosher delis, and synagogues. The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band played the parade until the shots rang. Cleveland Jewish News as, “Chicago’s preeminent Jewish music group.”

Robert Crimo, the alleged shooter, opened fire in Highland Park. Although he may have intended his act to be antisemitic violence he was actually shooting up a community known for being heavily Jewish in broad daylight.

“Michla Schanowitz, co-director of North Suburban Lubavitch Chabad — Central Avenue Synagogue, was outside her Chabad Center at the heart of the parade’s route, just four blocks away from the shooting, when she saw crowds running toward her…. She began rushing people to safety inside her Chabad center immediately,” Chabad News reports. “‘Come inside, it’s a synagogue,’ she shouted to the stunned passersby…. The July 4th parade annually has a strong Jewish presence, with Chabad running a float complete with a giant menorah and providing other Jewish experiences for participants.”

No one knows what Crimo thought when he scaled that ladder to the top. Details of his life and motivations are still coalescing, but the picture coming together is of a meagerly popular lo-fi YouTube and Spotify rapper who calls himself “Awake” and favors violent imagery in his videos. He was administrator of a Discord, a premier platform for neo-Nazis and other far right posters, that was titled “SS.” The channel has since been taken down, along with his videos on other platforms. “On most of Crimo’s social-media pages, and embedded in several of his videos, is a symbol that roughly resembles that used by Suomen Sisu, a far-right Finnish organization,” reports The Daily Beast.

As usual, the trope of the “angry young (white) loner” has begun to coalesce around Crimo. One of his posts features him wrapped in a Trump Flag, while others reflect positively upon President Biden. The Washington Post describes him as “a troubled young man,” a “weird dude” who was “immersed in fringe internet culture” and is depicted by friends as “consistently apolitical.” His uncle, Paul Crimo, told the Post, “He doesn’t express himself, he just sits down on his computer.”

This dovetails seamlessly with the NRA-peddled defense of the indefensible — “It’s all about mental health!” — and never mind that the weapon used was purchased legally, according to Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering. “I think at some point,” Rotering told NBC’s Today,“this nation needs to have a conversation about these weekly events involving the murder of dozens of people with legally obtained guns. If that’s what our laws stand for, we need to re-examine the laws.”

In just a few weeks, a grocery shop, a church, a primary school, and now a July Fourth parade were all shot to mush. Regardless of whether there was a fascist motivation behind Crimo’s attack, it still serves that wretched cause. Law professor Heidi Li Feldman notes on Twitter, “There is a direct connection between destroying opportunities for safe public gatherings and menacing American democracy.”

Highland Park attacked Jewish people and other community members yesterday, but we all are victims of this tsunami of gun violence from the United States. Fascism is gaining ground as our safe spaces shrink and our fears grow.

Also of note: Crimo was unharmed by law enforcement officers after an intense six hour manhunt, just days following Akron, Ohio Police shot and killed unarmed Jayland Walker. 60 or more times. One of these men is Black and the other is not. There are three possible answers, but you only need one. This is not to say that anyone should be killed by police; it’s to say that no one should.

You see, Walker’s assassination was also very American.