Updated: February 20, 2020 12:42 AM
Created: February 19, 2020 10:46 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A local political expert says a Greece man’s reported threats against democratic leaders are a part of a concerning political trend across the county.
On Wednesday, Salvatore Lippa, 57, was charged with threatening to assault and murder a federal official on account of the performance of their official duties.
The charges came after prosecutors say he left threatening voicemails for Congressman Adam Schiff and New York Senator Charles Schumer.
Lippa did not say a word to reporters Wednesday evening, as he left federal court in Rochester, but, he told investigators he was angry over the impeachment of President Trump.
Professor and political expert at Nazareth College Tim Kneeland says, Lippa’s anger is a symptom shared across the county.
"This should give us pause," Kneeland said.
While he says political frustration is nothing new, Kneeland sees a growing split between democrats and republicans, though he says, it’s not simply about political beliefs.
Kneeland says people are turning more toward far-right and far-left rhetoric, which is leading to a reduction in the middle political ground, and a lack of understanding between both sides.
Kneeland cites a 2019 report from the Pew Research Center, which reported 75% of Americans do not trust the government, and 64% do not trust each other.
"If people already believe that society is somehow fraying, or the world view they have is under attack, that's when they act out," he said.
Lippa’s alleged threats come almost a year after a Connecticut man was indicted on charges he threatened to kill President Trump. And, in 2018, when a Florida man mailed pipe bombs to several opponents of President Trump. And, on June 14. 2017, Republican congressman Steve Scalise was among several people shot during a baseball practice in Virginia. The shooter reportedly held anti-Trump views.
Kneeland says the rise of social media is partially to blame for this growing decline, and while he does not see a quick fix to the problem, he believes people could start by putting the phones down, and then sitting down with each other.
"You need to be able to look people in the eye, you need to be able to exchange ideas."
Lippa was released until his next court appearance on March 23.
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