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LA County officials receiving reports of hate incidents following election

FILE PHOTO: Echo Park residents held a community meeting about a recent stabbing police are investigating as a hate crime. LA County officials say they've received reports of hateful incidents locally in the aftermath of the November 8, 2016 election.
FILE PHOTO: Echo Park residents held a community meeting about a recent stabbing police are investigating as a hate crime. LA County officials say they've received reports of hateful incidents locally in the aftermath of the November 8, 2016 election.
Erika Aguilar/KPCC

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Los Angeles County officials say they are receiving local reports of hate incidents in the wake of last week’s presidential election.

The cases have not been verified, and there have been instances nationally where anti-immigrant and bullying stories on social media went unchecked, NPR reported.
 
But county officials are concerned about the cases reported since Nov. 8, including incidents like a note left under a black man’s door in the San Fernando Valley with the words “go back to the plantation" and a female Muslim high school student, also in the Valley, who reportedly had her head scarf torn off while called a "terrorist" and a "towelhead."

Robin Toma, executive director of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, recounted several other reported incidents, including one in the San Gabriel Valley the day after Election Day:
 
"A Mexican-American woman, who is pushing her child in a stroller on the sidewalk, is approached by a man in a pickup truck, who exits his truck and says, 'Get out of my country, you f-ing c-word. You Mexicans infest this country and you’re all freeloaders,' " Toma said. "And he goes [on] to say that 'You're lucky. If I had my gun, it would have gone worse for you.'"

The man reportedly threw a cup of soda at the woman and child before driving away.

These and other incidents are under investigation by authorities, Toma said.

In at least two of the cases, including the reported beating of a man by attackers using homophic slurs, the perpetrators were said to have made reference to last week’s election in which Republican Donald Trump won the presidency.
 
Although Trump attracted the support of groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, he did not endorse the groups or encourage hate crimes. When told of the reports of violence during a "60 Minutes" interview on Sunday, Trump told perpetrators to "stop it."

His campaign had targeted immigrants and Muslims with promises to deport those living here without authorization and to restrict the entry of refugees. At one point, Trump called for banning Muslims from entering the county, something he later walked back.

Still, some fear his victory has now emboldened supporters who were attracted by his message.

"These folks regard Mr. Trump as giving them a wink and a nod," said Brian Levin, a criminologist and hate crime expert at Cal State, San Bernardino.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, an anti-hate advocacy organization in Alabama, said it has received over 200 reports of harassment and intimidation since the election last week.

Hate crimes had already been on the rise, locally and nationally. In September, L.A. County released a report charting a rise in local hate crimes during 2015, when the ramp up of the presidential race coincided with the Paris terror attacks and the San Bernardino mass shooting late last year.

Earlier this week, the FBI released national hate crime statistics for 2015, which also showed an increase. Those numbers reflected an especially large spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes that surged following the Paris and San Bernardino events.

“Our communities and our identities have been used as political footballs," said Edina Lekovic, public affairs consultant with the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles. "So it's no surprise that when these [political] statements are made — and they are coupled with unfortunate international events, whether it's terrorist attacks or political uncertainty, that has a real impact on [how] people behave on the street."

Lekovic said in recent days, she's heard from local Muslim families who "are concerned about the safety of their children — even here in California."

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles County supervisors are expected to take up a proposal next week to crack down on hate crimes in collaboration with law enforcement and education officials.

The proposal calls for coordination between law enforcement agencies, information sharing, and anti-bullying efforts at schools. It was introduced by Supervisor Hilda Solis.