NEW YORK – A new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center shows that hate incidents increased sharply after the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, but are now declining.
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In the report titled, “Ten Days After: Harassment and Intimidation in the Aftermath of the Election,” the SPLC calls the upsurge “a national outbreak of hate.”
The organization tallied hate incidents – both those which rise to the level of hate crime and those which do not – reported directly to the SPLC and those in media accounts which it could verify.
Just six percent of the incidents were anti-Muslim, according to the SPLC report. But Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the SPLC, says that he believes that number to be artificially low, with a majority of anti-Muslim bigotry being expressed in anti-immigrant slurs. “The word immigrant is said but what is meant is Muslim. I expect the Muslim count is really higher,” he told Haaretz.
According to the report, “Muslim women wearing hijabs have been particularly vulnerable to threats and assault. Women reported being grabbed by their hijab, including a San Jose State University student who was choked and fell when a man pulled her head scarf from behind in a parking garage.”
Double that, or 12 percent of the reported incidents, have been anti-Semitic in nature. The 100 recorded incidents include 80 of swastika graffiti and vandalism.
The SPLC report details: “In Vermont, members of Havurah Synagogue found swastikas drawn on the temple’s front door in the week following the election. In Chicago, a man wearing a yarmulke was called a ‘kike.’ While looking for Hanukkah decorations, a parent and her 2-year-old child in Bel Air, Maryland, were called ‘fucking Jews’ by another shopper. In New York, a man drove by a Jewish woman waiting for a cab and yelled ‘nice nose!’ before adding, ‘Make America great again.’ ‘I have grown up in New York for 25 years and have never been the victim of an anti-Semitic remark,’” according to the woman reporting the incident.
The relative frequency of hate crimes against Jews and Muslims mirrors that identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigations in its 2015 hate crime statistics, which were recently released. Of those explicitly targeting people as members of a religious group, 51 percent were directed at Jews, according to that report, or roughly twice as many as those targeting Muslims.
Still, in 2015 the Muslim community experienced a sharp increase in the number of attacks – up 67 percent over 2014, said Potok. “We didn’t see anything remotely like that since 2001” in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he said.
Overall the upsurge is “the same kind of celebratory violence we saw after the Brexit vote” in England, said Potok. “The dominant theme was the idea much as it is playing out here, that the elites of the country were screwing regular people and ‘parasitic underclass’ groups of immigrants of color were doing the same thing.”
Yet reports of hateful incidents have decreased each day since the election, says the SPLC. They ranged from 202 reported the day following the presidential election down to 22 nine days later, with a small bump up to 26 the following day.
Potok says that he anticipates that they will continue to fall. However, he told Haaretz, “I am concerned not only because of the immediate rash of incidents but because of the growth of the racist right and the violence that will produce, which is likely to continue under a Trump administration.
The SPLC’s report concludes, “Rather than merely saying that he ‘wants to bring the country together,’ [Trump’s] actions must consistently demonstrate he is doing everything in his power to do so. Until president-elect Trump does these things, the hate that his campaign has unleashed is likely to continue to flourish.”
“The idea that with a few sentences Donald Trump could disavow the violence he encouraged for 18 months [during the presidential campaign] is ridiculous. The man has cultivated this kind of violence,” Potok told Haaretz, “literally encouraging violence at his rallies on several occasions. It turns out these demons are not so easy to put back in the cage.”
“Once we get the numbers for 2016 I would expect that the general level of hate crimes will go up,” he said.