In blue cities, new resolve to address hate crimes

A handful of liberal-leaning cities and states are stepping up efforts to address a spike in hate crimes after the election. 

Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (second from left) and Harvard Law student Harmann Singh (center) speak to a crowd outside the Massachusetts State House in Boston Monday morning.

Harmann Singh, a Sikh and first year student at Harvard Law School, was shopping in Cambridge, Mass., last week when a stranger called him “a [expletive] Muslim.”

Recounting the incident to a crowd gathered on the Massachusetts State House steps Monday morning, Mr. Singh said he was surprised that no one in the store intervened after the stranger began harassing him.

“At a moment when many of our brothers and sisters across the country do not feel safe in their own homes,” he says, “we must stand up to those around us.”

The address was part of the Anti-Defamation League’s Speak Out Against Hate rally in Boston, joined by Mayor Marty Walsh and State Attorney General Maura Healey. But it was also indicative of something more.  

Amid a post-election surge in hate crimes, liberal cities in blue states have felt emboldened to take their own stands.

Just as red cities and states passed regulations regulating immigration or banning officials from using the words "climate change" during the Obama administration, blue cities and states are showing the first signs of trying to chart their own path in different ways under President-elect Donald Trump. 

Attorney General Healey’s creation last week of a hotline to report hate crimes is one small example. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Sunday a new state police unit tasked with investigating reports of hate crimes. Over the weekend, a Brooklyn park was vandalized with spray-painted swastikas.

And at a rally in New York City Monday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio took defiance even further.

“If all Muslims are required to register, we will take legal action to block it. If the federal government wants our police officers to tear immigrant families apart, we will refuse to do it,” said Mayor de Blasio. “If the Justice Department orders local police to resume stop and frisk, we will not comply.”

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon took a similar line Friday, saying at a news conference that the city will “not tolerate hate or abuse without consequences.” Officials in San Francisco are also considering spending $5 million to defend undocumented immigrants from deportation. Since the election, San Francisco and at least 10 cities – including Austin, Texas, Oakland, Calif., Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington – have reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining their status as sanctuary cities, despite the president-elect’s promise to cut their federal funding within his first 100 days in office.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the blue states of California, New York, Washington, and Massachusetts are among the top five states for reported harassment since the election.

Democrats and minorities are not the only victims, though attacks against them make up the vast majority of hate crimes reported since Nov. 8. While SPLC has tallied 701 incidents since Election Day, the number of anti-Trump incidents has risen from 20 to 27 within the past week.

“We should respect the democratic process, but we will not remain neutral when hate rears its ugly head,” said Mayor Walsh. “There is no place for hate in this city, in this state.”

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