Bias crimes will not be tolerated in the most diverse place on Earth.
That was the message a group of local lawmakers delivered on Wednesday morning outside Jamaica‘s Martin Van Buren High School in the wake of recent reports of a nationwide surge in hate crimes.
As in many other parts of the nation, Queens has seen its share of intolerance following the Nov. 8 election that vaulted Donald Trump into the presidency — from students harassing public school students of color on a bus to a Muslim woman being told by two individuals to remove her headdress.
The FBI announced earlier this week that hate crimes have risen across the United States, with crimes against minorities up 7 percent and, against Muslims, up 67 percent. New York City has not been immune to the sadistic surge; Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced on Wednesday that the NYPD saw a 31 percent increase in bias crimes. Incidents in which Muslims were targeted have doubled over the year, with 25 incidents reported citywide so far in 2016, up from just 12 reported in 2015.
Together with area residents, a group of local lawmakers — including Councilmen Barry Grodenchik and I. Daneek Miller, Assemblymen Ron Kim and David Weprin and Public Advocate Letitia James — condemned at Wednesday’s press conference the increase in hate crimes and encouraged everyone to come together in a spirit of unity.
Although he didn’t mention him by name, Grodenchik pointed some of the blame to Trump’s campaign trail rhetoric, in which Trump pledged to build a wall on the U.S./Mexican border and to ban Muslims from entering the country.
“We have just come through a national election in which the rhetoric from one of the candidates, who is now the president-elect, reached depths never before plumed by a major party candidate for public office,” Grodenchik said. “I wanted to get the community together to say that we stand together in combating hateful rhetoric and actions. Queens is one of the most diverse counties in the United States, a place where we celebrate and encourage tolerance and diversity.”
“In these uncertain times, we must continue to remain vigilant against hate,” Miller added. “The rise in the number of these crimes cannot continue, and by standing together, we will send a powerful message to those who are trying to tear us apart.”
James said it was important for the borough and the city to come together and “demonstrate that, in the face of evil, we will always stand together in solidarity and love.”
“The diversity of New York City has been and will always be our greatest strength,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “Following the most divisive election in modern history, our city has experienced a surge in acts of hate and bigotry, something that New Yorkers will never tolerate.”
The press conference came a day after Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, along with the city’s four other district attorneys, issued a joint statement reiterating their resolve to prosecute all who commit hate crimes.
“We have never and will never tolerate such acts — particularly those involving violence, intimidation and destruction of property,” according to the joint statement. “The U.S. Constitution equally protects the rights of all Americans, and we are dedicated to enforcing the laws that uphold those rights. New York State law enables the criminal prosecution of those who commit crimes against anyone in New York, whether or not that person is a U.S. citizen.”