State Senator Michael Gianaris and civil rights leaders gathered in Astoria to condemn the recent hate crimes in the neighborhood after the presidential election.
There have been several reported attacks against Muslims in Astoria including a racist tirade by a man against an Arab-American Uber driver. Swastikas were found on the 30th Avenue platform on the N and W line in Astoria and on Nov. 19 a Muslim teen suffered a fractured eye socket after three white men made anti-Muslim and threw a bottle in his face.
Students from Growing Up Green Charter School and representatives from Make the Road New York, New York Civil Liberties Union, New York Immigration Coalition and NYU Islamic Center also attended the press conference that took place at the corner of 41st Avenue and 27th Street.
“We have seen an outbreak over the last couple of weeks as a result of the presidential election,” Gianaris said. “Bigots are feeling empowered and we have a president-elect who is doing little to nothing to slow down and to speak against these kinds of attacks.”
On Nov. 17, a video was released of a man verbally harassing a Moroccan Uber driver on Crescent Street. The man said “f***in’ loser, f**k you and your family, you terrorist f**k.”
Chris Cody, an adjunct professor at St. John’s University, was picked up by the Uber driver shortly after the incident occurred. He struck up a conversation with the driver, who shared the video with him, in Arabic and Cody decided to post it online.
“I debated about what to do next, not knowing the exact course of events,” Cody said in a statement. “But to stay silent would have validated this behavior – indefensible regardless of what occurred prior between two disgruntled New Yorkers on the road. My intention was not to belabor the hate and divisiveness that the recent presidential campaign brought on and that most people I know hope to put behind us. This is a teachable moment and I hope it serves as a wake-up call that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
According to Police Commissioner James O’Neill, there were a reported 328 hate crimes in New York City through Nov. 13. This number reflects a 31 percent increase from last year and there was both an increase in anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic hate crimes.
Theo Oshiro, the deputy director of Make the Road New York, said that President-elect Donald Trump must himself condemn the hate crimes and make changes to his cabinet position appointments to ensure that the uptick in hate crimes do not continue.
“Since the beginning of this campaign he has maligned immigrants, Latinos, women and more and his divisive rhetoric and policies have normalized hate speech and action in scary ways,” Oshiro said. “A critical first step is withdrawing the appointment of Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions, two infamous racists and anti-immigrant figures from the new administration.”
Gianaris said these acts will not be “tolerated or accepted” in Queens or anywhere else.
“We have to let people know who are committing these vile acts that it is them who are not welcome in our community, not the people that they are yelling at and condemning,” he said.