Bay Area not immune from post-election attacks on immigrants, Muslims

Faisal Yazadi, board president of the Evergreen Islamic Center San Jose, speaks about the mosque's reaction to receiving a threatening letter.

A truck driver in Millbrae chased a Hispanic woman down the street screaming slurs. A university researcher living in Albany, California, was confronted with swastikas on her way to work at UC Berkeley. A mosque in San José received a letter threatening to “cleanse” Muslims from the country. All of these incidents took place after the election—and in each case, the perpetrators explicitly linked their racial hatred to the election of Donald Trump.

Following Trump’s November win, the nation has seen a wave of hate speech and attacks targeting minorities—and not even the deep-blue Bay Area has remained unaffected. Oakland North is presenting here a series of short videos documenting several of the post-election hate incidents that have taken place in the Bay Area.

Nationally, in the first ten days after the election alone, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit legal center that tracks hate groups and mounts legal challenges on behalf of marginalized groups, documented 867 “bias-related incidents” nationwide. The most common were anti-immigrant incidents (280) and anti-Black incidents (187), followed by anti-Semitic (100), anti-LGBT (95) and anti-Muslim (49). Many of the incidents were committed by people citing Trump’s election as their inspiration or proclaiming their support for the president-elect.

The center documented multiple incidents of men publicly threatening women using variations of a  phrase Trump used while bragging about sexually assaulting women. A man in New York City told a girl on her way to school he was “allowed to grab [her] pussy because it’s legal now,” and in Venice, California, a 50-year-old woman said three white men in a pickup truck with a Trump sticker yelled “Do you want us to grab your pussy?”

The center also documented 23 anti-Trump incidents in the ten days following the election. A man with a Trump sign was assaulted in Connecticut and a white man was assaulted by African-American teenagers in Chicago who accused him of being a Trump supporter. The anti-Trump incidents may be underreported, however. “The small number of anti-Trump incidents may also reflect the fact that Trump supporters may have been unlikely to report incidents to the SPLC,” center staffers note in the report.

In fact, the numbers in the report are almost certainly low all around. The Bureau of Justice Statistics, an office of the federal government responsible for collecting statistics related to crime and the judicial system, estimates there were more than 290,000 hate crimes in 2012, the last year for which numbers are available. However, the bureau reports that around 60 percent of them were never reported to the police, meaning the majority of hate attacks are likely never reported to any kind of legal authority.

Among the unreported incidents that occurred in the wake of this year’s election is Carmen Garcia’s story, which she told for the first time in a video accompanying this piece. While driving to Oakland on the day after the election, Garcia was accosted by a man in a truck covered in Trump paraphernalia, screaming hateful racial slurs at her. When she tried to escape, the man chased her, making an illegal turn to follow Carmen and continue harassing her.

Sara Hinkley, the associate director of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at UC Berkeley, was on her way to work when she encountered swastikas and the phrase “white power” scrawled in spray paint—symbols and messages she never expected to see in her liberal community in surburban Albany.

In San José, the Evergreen Islamic Center (along with several other mosques around the country) received a letter threatening to murder worshippers if they don’t leave the country. The mosque’s board president, Faisal Yazadi, spoke with Oakland North about the letter and why he still believes in the kindness of the American people.

And in the final video, we speak with Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) San Francisco chapter, who discusses election-linked hatred directed against Muslims. CAIR offers legal support to Muslims in America, focusing particularly on issues of anti-Muslim bigotry. The organization also documents anti-Muslim hate crimes in the country.

Text by Andrew Beale. Videos by Andrew Beale with Khaled Sayed.

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