FBI investigating possible civil rights violations after more threats to Jewish community centers

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Babies in cribs were rolled outside the Levite Jewish Community Center on Montclair Road this rainy Monday morning. This isn’t the first time they’ve had to do this.

The center was reportedly evacuated Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, after yet another bomb threat was made, as well as at several others across the country including Indianapolis and Ann Arbor. This is the third bomb threat made to the Birmingham center this year.

Jessica Minyard Dolly’s son attends school at the JCC on Montclair Road. She reached out to CBS42 after witnessing the Monday morning evacuation.

“I have a three-year-old child that attends the preschool and was there when the threat occurred. I watched as babies were loaded into cribs and pushed out into the pouring rain,” she said. “I cannot put into words my feelings since these threats have been happening. My child is being targeted simply because of where he attends school. As always, the response from the teachers and staff was nothing short of amazing. However, it saddens and angers me that this is something that is becoming commonplace at our school.”

Betzy Lynch, the Executive Director of the Levite Jewish Community Center said the threatening calls typically involve a recording of a female voice, making “significant threats with specifically Jewish overtones.”

“I think for the first time, both Jews and people of other faiths here are feeling what malicious anti-semitism really feels like, and it’s scary,” Lynch said.

Lynch said her staff is well-practiced in the protocol, and that she is working with law enforcement to take extra safety measures at the JCC. Lynch was unable to go into specifics regarding those measures.

She said that daily operations will not, and should not be impacted by the threats.

“You’re not going interrupt the things that I do every day, and you’re not going to push us to do something differently because that’s what you want to do,” Lynch said. “You’re not going to scare me enough to make me live in a way I don’t want to.”

Paul Daymond, Public Affairs Specialist with the FBI, says they and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are investigating possible civil rights violations in connection with the threats made to Jewish Community Centers nationwide.

“The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence, and will ensure this matter is investigated in a fair, thorough, and impartial manner,” Daymond said. He was unable to provide further comment as the investigation is ongoing.

Alabama Governor Bentley released a statement regarding the ongoing threats, saying he is “deeply troubled.” Read the full statement below:

As the Governor of every person of Alabama, I will not tolerate targeted threats against any segment of the community. I have been briefed on the bomb threats at the Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham, and I have ordered the State Bureau of Investigation, a division within the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to coordinate with local and federal law enforcement officials to provide investigative resources. I am deeply troubled for our families and communities that have been threatened and feel frightened. I can assure the people of our state that Alabama will not tolerate any threat, we will bring those responsible to justice and we will provide any resource necessary to protect every one of our citizens.

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