Last week’s shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue didn’t shock Casper resident Barb Watters.
“The president has been fanning the flames of hate,” Watters, the lay leader for Congregation Koh Ha’am in Casper, said of President Donald Trump. “There are consequences to what people say.”
Her daughter, Jessica, agreed.
“We are living in a time of fear and hate-mongering, and this is what happens,” she said.
The suspected gunman, a 46-year old truck driver, is accused of opening fire Oct. 27 in the Tree of Life Congregation while repeatedly spewing anti-Semitic sentiments. Eleven congregants were killed, making it the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history.
The suspect appears to have posted multiple anti-Semitic comments on Gab.com, a social media platform popular with far-right extremists. His recent posts include a photo of a fiery oven — like those used in Nazi concentration camps to cremate Jews — as well as memes implying that the Holocaust was a hoax.
The mass shooting immediately raised alarm around the country. Authorities in some urban areas, such as Chicago and New York, have reportedly increased security at Jewish centers.
But the Watterses said they're not fearful about being targeted for their faith in Casper. The city's Jewish population is very small and doesn’t attract much attention. Additionally, many Wyoming residents hold libertarian views and believe in respecting individuality, they said.
But the mother and daughter both worry for their fellow Jews living in different areas, as well as other minorities.
"Anyone that is marginalized is a target right now,” Jessica said.
In a public statement about the attack, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt said that anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise.
"It is simply unconscionable for Jews to be targeted during worship on a Sabbath morning, and unthinkable that it would happen in the United States of America in this day and age," he wrote. "Unfortunately, this violence occurs at a time when the ADL has reported a historic increase in both anti-Semitic incidents and anti-Semitic online harassment."
Anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. surged nearly 60 percent in 2017. This was the largest single-year increase on record, according to the organization's website.
Trump's critics have frequently condemned the president for emboldening bigots by making racist and sexist remarks, as well as failing to adequately speak out against hate.
Since the shooting, the president has condemned the attack in a post on his Twitter account. In an Oct. 28 post, Trump blamed the "great anger" in the country on the "fake news media."
Casper Mayor Ray Pacheco said Friday that he believes its critical for all politicians to watch their words.
"I hope that all leaders, whether it's local or national, really pause and think about the language that they are using and the rhetoric that they use and how that influences things in our communities," he said.
Vice Mayor Charlie Powell said he is also concerned by the nation's increasingly heated political discourse.
“I am proud of the fact that we have been able to be civil in our local politics...” he said. “We need to stop demonizing people we disagree with."
Powell said the city's leaders welcome those of all religious faiths to Casper.
“We obviously are all shaken by an experience like this (recent shooting), and we want all of our citizens, including the Jewish community, to be safe and to know that they are supported by the entire community,” he said.