Hate Crimes and Protests Spike Nationwide

The 2016 presidential election inspired strong opposing opinions and the result has elicited both powerful and violent responses. For many, Trump’s victory is something they simply refuse to accept; for others, it has turned fears of increased bigotry and hate crime into a reality.

On Friday, Nov. 11 “Not My President” chants rang from coast to coast as tens of thousands filled the streets of at least 25 cities overnight with demonstrations outside of Trump’s properties. Although most of the protestors were peaceful, dozens were arrested, at least three police officers were wounded and about 40 fires were started in one California city.

Conversely, the Southern Poverty Law Center counted 867 cases of “hateful harassment or intimidation” across the nation, according to CNN. Additionally, CNN is updating a page daily with such incidents called “Make America White Again:” Hate speech and crimes post-election.

Five mosques in California have received letters calling Muslims “a vile and filthy people” and advocating genocide from a group calling themselves “Americans for a Better Way.” In Durham, North Carolina, someone spray painted the message, “Black lives don’t matter and neither does your votes” on a wall. 

On the other side of the country, playground equipment was vandalized with swastikas and the words “Go Trump” in Adam Yauch Park in Brooklyn, New York. These are just a few examples in the wave of hateful messages rippling across the country.

Trump supporters are not the only ones perpetuating the violence; many have reported violence against them. A young Trump supporter was beaten by students during a protest in Rockville, Maryland. In Chicago, a man was struck by another vehicle and when he emerged to exchange insurance information he was attacked and onlookers yelled, “you voted Trump!” His car was also stolen and police are currently investigating.

At Baylor University however, 300 students escorted a victim to her class. A week prior, a woman was shoved off the sidewalk by a man who told her, “No [racial epithet] on the sidewalk.” The students rallied behind her in order to make sure she felt safe leaving class.

There has also been backlash on our own campus. Between peaceful gatherings such as the vigil held on Friday, Nov. 11 and the walk-out for solidarity against Trump and the hate graffiti found in the bathroom in Bouton Hall, it is clear that many students are compelled to respond to controversial political occurrences.

New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) project coordinator Eric Wood believes the racial signage may have been as much of an inspiration for the rally as Trump’s actual election.

“It seemed to be a couple of things, people were upset for the signage I saw, the fact that Trump was elected, but also from some racial signage that was found on campus and along with the racial signage was pro-Trump signage,” he said. “So I’m not sure if it’s Trump’s election that the protest was or that type of behavior with the signage.”

NYPIRG has been around since 1973 and are now the state’s largest student-driven, non-partisan, political advocacy group. NYPIRG aims to advocate, not only for students, but for the public in New York in general and peaceful protest is one their strongly used tactics.

“I think it’s a great idea for students  to express their concerns,” Wood said. “Otherwise some day they might not be able to, we don’t want our first amendment rights taken away.”

Second-year theatre major Meghan Tobias participated in the rally and is satisfied with the message it sent.

“I felt like it sent a message that even though he has won, he really hasn’t won until we’ve given up and we haven’t given up,” she said.

However, political science department chair Jeff Miller believes the protests are too little, too late.

“We have a president and barring some sort of miracle in recounts we’re going to have Trump as a president for at least four years,” he said. “I think the time for protesting that is over, not to say that you should be politically disengaged, but there are more effective ways of channeling that anxiety, anger or even hope if you’re on the Trump side of things, than going out and protesting.”

Miller added that he would encourage students, and Americans in general, to go out and vote next time and to get involved with local elections.

“A march through downtown New Paltz isn’t going to have too much of an effect on New Paltz politics,” he said. “Given limited time and limited resources, limited energy, you need to focus those things on where they’re going to have the most effect.”