Post-election bias attacks prompt New York officials to take a stand

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, with members of the immigrant and minority communities, announces measures against bias at a press conference on Nov.  17, 2016.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, with members of the immigrant and minority communities, announces measures against bias at a press conference on Nov. 17, 2016. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

The state attorney general on Thursday joined the growing list of city and state public officials who are working to stop the rise in alleged bias and hate crimes taking place in New York since Donald Trump was elected.

With incidents like a swastika scratched onto a B train Thursday, and the symbols spray painted on dorms at the New School over the weekend, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman warned “a lot of people out there are scared right now.” He said his office sent a bulletin to law enforcement offices across the state that laid out New York’s hate crimes and gave guidance on civil rights laws.

“This is a time to recommit ourselves to the ideals that make this city and this nation great,” Schneiderman said at a news conference.

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said as of Nov. 13, reported hate crimes are up 31% from the same period last year. Specifically, there have been 25 reported hate crimes against Muslims in 2016, 13 more than last year, and 111 reported Jewish hate crimes, nine more than last year.

“The rapid increase in hate violence should not distract us from the bigotry that existed prior to last Tuesday,” said Imam Khalid Latif, the executive director of the Islamic Center at NYU. “As a Muslim, my inside hurts.”

While there isn’t any specific evidence that some of the bias incidents are directly related to Trump, in some cases the links appear clear. In Wellsville, New York, someone graffitied a swastika with the slogan “Make America white again” sprawled next to it. Several women and minorities have reported that they’ve been harassed on the street or subway by someone shouting Trump’s name, his slogan, or some of the lewd comments from the campaign.

“I think there is a lot more open hate in this world now because of Donald Trump,” said Denise Nguyen, 26, an advocate for domestic violence victims from the East Village.

The president-elect hasnt done much to ease concerns, with his choice of white nationalist media figure Steve Bannon as his chief strategist, and an alleged plan to register Muslims. He told perpetrators of bias attacks to “stop it,” in a “60 Minutes” interview.

Evan Bernstein, the New York regional director at the Anti-Defamation League, said all New Yorkers have to do their part and not shrug off this behavior.

“We need to do everything we can as a community to fight what’s metastasized in our communities, this kind of hate,” he said.

On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo created a hotline for New Yorkers to report incidents of bias and discrimination. The governor’s office said more than 200 people called the number in the first 48 hours.

“We have welcomed generations of immigrants with open arms. This state will continue that proud legacy — we will not turn our backs and we will not let this heated rhetoric divide us,” he said in a statement Thursday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio also relayed those fears and concerns to the president-elect Wednesday. The mayor said he told Trump bluntly about his concerns over proposals to deport millions of undocumented New Yorkers and register Muslim Americans.

De Blasio later told CNN that he is committed to protecting the rights of immigrants and minorities.

“The bottom line here is we’ve got a lot of people in this country who are part of our communities. The vast majority — undocumented immigrants and all immigrants — are law abiding and going about their work,” he said.

The five New York City district attorneys also issued a letter urging New Yorkers to call their offices if they experience any bias.

“New York State law enables the criminal prosecution of those who commit crimes against anyone in New York, whether or not that person is a U.S. citizen,” they wrote.

On Thursday, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and councilmen Carlos Menchaca and Daniel Dromm posted a letter to the city’s immigrant communities that urged them to contact the authorities or various city agencies if they experience any harassment.

“As always, the City of New York is prepared to defend and protect our immigrant communities. We will never turn our back on you,” they wrote.

(With Junior Martinez)

Here are the numbers that New Yorkers can call to report bias incidents:

Governor’s hotline: 1-888-392-3644

City’s Commission on Human Rights hotline: 718-722-3131

NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force: 646-610-5267

Manhattan DA’s hate crimes hotline: 212-335-3100

Queens DA’s 24-hour hotline: 718-286-6580

Queens DA’s Gang Violence and Hate Crimes Bureau: 718-286-7045

Brooklyn DA’s Action Center: 718-250-2340

Brooklyn DA’s Hate Crimes hotline: 718-250-4949

Bronx DA’s office: 718-590-2000

Staten Island Island DA’s office: 718-876-6300