Garden City Bomb Plot
On this site in 2016, an anti-muslim outbreak with the potential to murder hundreds of innocent lives was on the brink of eruption. The Apple Garden Apartments- an apartment complex in Garden City, Kansas- holds more significance than an average residential facility. It serves as a home and place of worship for many Somali Muslim immigrants. In 2016, three men plotted to bomb the complex; an act driven by hatred and islamophobia. They planned to terrorize not only a safe place, homes, and place of worship -- but to hurt the Muslim community at large. While the attack was avoided, the impact it had on the community will not be forgotten.
Backstory and Context
Garden City is a small town in western Kansas with a population of around 27,000 as of 2017. Much of the town’s success can be traced back to the 1980s when the meatpacking industry was gaining momentum. Meatpacking was an entry-level job that required few qualifications, and during this period, a couple of meatpacking plants had opened near Garden City. The 1980s were also characterized by an influx of immigrants who were looking for jobs. The combination of these events made Garden City an ideal place to settle and helped foster the diversity that is still evident today.
While Garden City’s rich diversity and small population contribute to the strength of its close-knit community and family values, the town is not immune to xenophobia. In early 2016, Patrick Eugene Stein and Curtis Allen from Kansas, as well as Gavin Wright from Oklahoma began a group named “the Crusaders.” Their goal was to torment and hurt Muslims. When some people discovered the group’s plot, they informed the FBI. An undercover FBI agent, acting as an illicit arms dealer that kept in contact with the men of the terrorist group, learned through extensive research the target of the attack would be the Apple Garden Apartments in Garden City. These apartments were highly valued and a major safe space for many Muslims, specifically Somali Muslims in Garden City. Over 100 Somali Muslims lived here and also worshipped at the makeshift mosque within it making it an ideal target for the men’s Islamaphobic agenda. These men meticulously planned their attack over several months, and their preparation included testing potential weapons and crafting bombs. The investigation concluded in October of 2016 with the arrest of the three men. After a five-week trial, the men were convicted in 2018 on the accounts of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and violating the housing rights of the residents of Apple Garden Apartments. Wright was also convicted for lying to the FBI about a matter of domestic terrorism.
While the US Department of Justice claims the sentence on the terrorists was “a significant victory against hate crimes and domestic terrorism,” the bomb threat illuminates deeply rooted as well as newfound issues relevant to the political climate of the country today. According to prosecutor Risa Berkower, the men were inspired by the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando, Florida. A study conducted under the Social Science Research Network states that hate crimes in the US have increased by a statistically significant amount since Trump’s election in 2016. His campaign focused on “Making America Great Again,” which is founded on the racist idea that this country needs to return to the traditionally white state it was around the 1930s. His campaign and presidency have enabled racism, islamophobia, and xenophobia to an extent unlike any other time in the history of the United States. It highlights the controversy regarding immigrants’ place in America. There are towns like Garden City where differences are cherished and industry flourishes due to immigrants’ contributions. There are also men like the terrorists and white supremacists involved in the bomb plot who are on an anti-immigrant mission to eradicate America of everyone who isn’t white. As the United States continues to struggle with inclusivity and acknowledgment of immigrants’ undoubtedly valuable role since the history of this country, one thing is irrefutable: the impact the planned attack had on Garden City.
The event has truly disturbed the residents of Garden City. Many of them now feel a sense of danger and fear. A member of the Kansas City NPR station, KCUR, Frank Morris says Somali Muslims have started emigrating out of Garden City because they no longer feel safe in their community. Additionally, the Garden City police department states that they have not witnessed crimes like these before. Although currently no memorial or plaque detailing the bomb threat exists, these facts are enough evidence to prove the irreversible damage plaguing the weakened community. Garden City residents explained that since no deaths occurred, Garden City police did their best to cover up all evidence of the plot in an attempt to not inspire other potential terrorists to execute something similar. However, if Somali Muslim immigrants are evacuating their beloved town and other residents are protesting, something as traumatizing as this cannot simply be shushed. The proliferation of hate crimes is an American epidemic, and victimized communities are demanding the attention they deserve as they now suffer through the aftermath of these attacks.
Had this attack been carried out fully, the entire nation would have felt the consequences, but the impact of the plan has been a detriment to the entire community of Garden City. Whether it is a plot or an actual attack, hate crimes cannot go unnoticed for the United States to work towards a less hateful America - an America that can steer away from the racism being spread by its president.
The residents of the Apple Garden Apartments will never feel the same when they pray or go to bed.
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