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Hate Incidents Spike In Florida and Across U.S. After Election

A Tallahassee event on discussing race and culture held earlier this month.
Sarah Mueller
A Tallahassee event on discussing race and culture held earlier this month.

Many people considered the rhetoric during 2016 campaign cycle brutal. After voters elected Donald Trump as president, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported more than a thousand hate incidents of white nationalism and harassment of minority groups.

A Tallahassee event on discussing race and culture held earlier this month.
Credit Sarah Mueller
A Tallahassee event on discussing race and culture held earlier this month.

Tallahassee father Adil Attari said he’s worried about his kids. He recently comforted his 7-year-old daughter after she was one of two classmates not to vote for Trump in a mock election. His son Omar seems almost numb about the comments he gets at school because of the family’s Muslim religion.

“It’s being conscious of an environment that is potentially hostile and I was not aware of it," he said.

Attari says he feels scared, something he’s never felt before in 20 years living in U-S. He said his family no longer feels safe in their community or in their country.

Just this month, bomb threats were called into Jewish Community Centers in Miami-Dade, Orlando and Jacksonville. Someone scrawled racist graffiti on a bathroom wall at a high school in Seminole County - which also referenced Trump.

The Southern Poverty Law Center said more than a third of incidents it tracked right after the election directly referenced Trump. Of those, most were attacks against women.

Credit Donald Trump Campaign / https://www.donaldjtrump.com/gallery/

There’s a big difference between a hate incident and a hate crime, said David Barkey with the Anti-Defamation League.  A hate crime is when someone commits violates the law and selects the victim based on a bias toward them like race, ethnicity or disability. And federal reports say as of 2012 there’s an uptick in victims saying they were attacked for their religion, ethnicity or gender.

Jacksonville resident and Trump supporter Gary Snow showed up in Tallahassee last month to protest an anti-Trump rally before the state’s electors voted.

“If you look at the four people who organized this event, they’re four women, four feminists," he said. "I’m not going to say that they’re lesbians. There’s no problem with that.”

Snow said the liberal women who supported Hillary Clinton are the ones attacking people. “But it’s just I’ve seen this same thing over and over again, this anti-man, this anti - especially a white man," he said.

Mark Potok with the Southern Poverty Law Center pushes back on assertions by conservatives who have said they doubt that the hate incidents are true or are a result of Trump’s rhetoric. “The fact that the numbers were enormous on the day after the election and dropped by about 5 percent for each of the succeeding 10 days or so show that that’s not so," he said. "This is not just some random spike. This is clearly related to the election.”

But tracking hate crimes is tricky and badly flawed. Many times victims don’t report them to police. State law enforcement agencies report hate crimes to the FBI. But the agencies report inconsistently. Local police departments like the Tallahassee Police Department say they categorize crimes like a vandal spray painting “KKK” on another person’s property as criminal mischief.

Potok says the FBI’s data is worthless… but the Bureau of Justice Statistics numbers from 2012 show there’s likely hundreds of thousands of violent and property hate crimes occurring every year.

Copyright 2020 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Sarah Mueller is the first recipient of the WFSU Media Capitol Reporting Fellowship. She’ll be covering the 2017 Florida legislative session and recently earned her master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting at the University of Illinois Springfield. Sarah was part of the Illinois Statehouse press corps as an intern for NPR Illinois in 2016. When not working, she enjoys playing her yellow lab, watching documentaries and reading memoirs.
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