Knots and bolts of post-election hate crimes in U.S

2016/11/23 11:05

States, communities and private organizations across the country are stepping forward to let the public know they can be a resource in the wake of hate crimes reported since the presidential election.

USviewer: The number of complaints about hate incidents since the election taken in by the Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) approached 900 Monday, and while the nonprofit did not count such complaints before the election, Richard Cohen, president, says the new numbers are "significantly higher" than before.


Race, ethnicity and gender played roles in the contentious campaign in which President-elect Donald Trump proposed - among other things — a wall separating the United States and Mexico, and the rollback of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.


Government and private entities are relying on social media and the mainstream media to get the word out about hate crime resources. The hate incidents range from spray-painted swastikas to racial epithets to graffiti references to the wall that Trump promised to build along the southern United States border to keep out Mexicans.


"I do think it's important to understand that this is probably just the tip of the iceberg," said Cohen of the SPLC. "Maybe someone screams a racial epithet on the street in Trump's name -- most people are probably not going to report that sort of thing in spite of our efforts."


Given the recent uptick in incidents, however, it's important for government to stress public safety now, Cohen said. "I think in light of what we're seeing that it's entirely appropriate for state and local governments to step up to the plate and let people know what resources are available."


People who have experienced the hate incidents say more needs to be done to publicize resources.


Yulonda Burris, a black Charlotte, N.C., bank executive, contacted the SPLC and law enforcement after she says a white man in a pickup truck followed her as she drove to work on Friday, calling her the N word, giving her the middle finger and shouting expletives at her.


Burris said the man followed her onto the highway and continued the tirade during a commute that takes her from North Carolina into South Carolina and back into North Carolina. She contacted highway patrol in both states as well as Fort Mill, S.C., police, who did not arrest the man, and the York County, S.C., Sheriff's Department. She also filed a report with the SPLC.


Oddly, Burris said, she has had more productive responses from members of the public since posting an account of her experience and a photo of the man's license plate on social media. Strangers provided her with the man's identity and address, a mere two miles from her home. She has contacted a lawyer and is glad resources exist but feels more is needed.


"I feel like there's not going to be any resolution outside of my complaint with the Southern Poverty Law Center," said Burris, 44. "I honestly think more should be done because not doing anything is only condoning their behavior."


Reham Fared, an investment firm project coordinator who lives in Tampa, Fla., feels the same.


Fared, 32, said she drove into a shopping center on Sunday afternoon and was surprised to see "2016 Trump! Build The Wall!" spray painted onto a wall. After she posted about the incident on social media, someone recommended that she contact the ACLU, and she did. She later saw that volunteers with a local organization had painted over the graffiti.


"I definitely think these resources are needed and appreciated but if I didn't proactively go out there and look for them, I wouldn't know about it," Fared said. "They probably do wonderful work but they probably need to be more out there. The general public doesn't even realize that they're there."


On the private front, the SPLC has been getting the word out through the news media about its web page for reporting incidents, and the American Civil Liberties Union also is spreading the word that it is available as a resource. On the state level, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has said that the state Human Relations Commission is ready to help victims of hate incidents and the Pennsylvania State Police will monitor threats.


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has directed the state police to create a hate crimes unit. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey set up a hate crimes hotline a little more than a week ago that has received hundreds of calls.


New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in a speech Monday vowed that his city will take legal action to block any Muslim registry, will refuse to direct police officers to tear apart immigrant families, will step in if the federal government tries to deport law-abiding New Yorkers with no legal representation, will not comply with any Justice Department orders for local police to resume stop and frisk, and if Jews, Muslims, LGBT New Yorkers or anyone else are victimized and attacked, "we will find their attackers, we will arrest them. we will prosecute them," the mayor said. "This is New York. Nothing about who we are changed on Election Day."


He promised residents that NYPD and the Human Rights Commission was ready to act in the case of bias attacks and urged the public to call 9-1-1 or 3-1-1 if they saw anything amiss.


"This is no less America because of one election," de Blasio said. "It's our country for all of us."

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