In light of the recent surge in hate crimes across the country, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is urging law enforcement to identify and prosecute those that occur.
Schneiderman held a meeting with civil rights leaders Thursday to discuss the sharp increase in hate crimes, which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) previously reported has hit record numbers since Donald Trump became the president-elect on Election Day.
“As the state’s top law enforcement officer, let me assure anyone who is feeling scared or threatened at this time that this office stands behind you and has your back,” Schneiderman said. “New York’s diversity is our greatest strength, and we will not allow anyone to turn that strength against us.”
Schneiderman and his team sent a bulletin to law enforcement and district attorney offices in the state that provides help and guidance “to identify, investigate, and prosecute hate crimes against immigrants, religious minorities, ethnic and racial minorities, women, LGBTQ New Yorkers, and other vulnerable communities,” according to a release from his office.
“It is not okay to be a bigot in New York or in America. It never has been it never will be,” Schneiderman said on Thursday.
As of November 14 the SPLC has collected 437 reports of hate crimes just since the election. This number of hate incidents is often seen over a period of several months, rather than less than one week. The SPLC also reported that “many incidents involved direct references to the Trump campaign and its slogans.”
New York has been no exception. On Wednesday night, Ku Klux Klan (KKK) fliers were found in Patchogue, Long Island, and on Thursday morning a swastika was found drawn on the B train in Manhattan. Earlier crimes included “Make America White Again” graffiti and a swastika found in Buffalo, a Black doll hung by a noose in a freshman dorm at Canisius College (also in Buffalo), a gay pride flag burned on someone’s porch in Rochester and a swastika and “Trump” found spray painted on a dorm building at State University of New York (SUNY) Geneso.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a statement on Thursday calling on everyone “to denounce and repudiate these expressions” and to hold accountable those who are responsible:
“Let me be very clear: These acts of hate and intolerance go against everything New York stands for. 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. We will stand strong united in the face of intolerance and show the world that we are one people, one family, and one New York.”
Cuomo also launched a hotline for residents to report bias, hate crimes and discrimination. New Yorkers can call the toll-free hotline at (888) 392-3644 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Civil rights activists and leaders praised Schneiderman’s efforts and the bulletin. Thomas Zugibe, president of the District Attorneys Association of New York, called the bulletin “an important tool for law enforcement and district attorney offices.”
“I applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for leading the effort and coordinating this useful document,” Zugibe said.
Evan R. Bernstein, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in New York, called the rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes “deeply concerning” and said the crimes have bred fear and anxiety.
“We have been gratified by the strong statements of support that have come from our elected officials in response to the hate and hope it continues,” he said.
“LGBTQ immigrants are too often targets for violence and persecution,” said Aaron C. Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality. “We are grateful to Attorney General Schneiderman for his leadership in ensuring that New York remains a safe haven for the queer immigrant community.”
On Election Day Trump lost New York to Hillary Clinton, 58.8 percent to 37.5 percent. Trump was booed by New Yorkers when he went to the ballot to cast his vote in his home state.