Frosh warns of surge in hate speech

At­tor­ney gen­eral urges vic­tims to re­port in­ci­dents

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Erin Cox Baltimore Sun re­porters Sarah Gantz, Tim Pru­dente and John Fritze con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle. ecox@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Eri­natTheSun

Mary­land At­tor­ney Gen­eral Brian E. Frosh en­cour­aged vic­tims of racial and re­li­gious hate speech Mon­day to re­port the in­ci­dents, which he said ap­pear to have risen since Don­ald Trump won the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion last week.

“There seems to be this up­welling of that kind of aw­ful be­hav­ior — crim­i­nal be­hav­ior,” said Frosh, the state’s top law en­force­ment of­fi­cial. “Un­less it’s been hap­pen­ing qui­etly be­fore, it seems like the in­ci­dents have in­creased.”

Groups that track hate speech have re­ported a national uptick in racially and re­li­giously mo­ti­vated acts since the vic­tory by Trump, a Repub­li­can. The South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter counted more than 200 in­ci­dents of ha­rass­ment and in­tim­i­da­tion in the three days after the elec­tion.

In Mary­land, a string of highly pub­li­cized in­ci­dents at schools and a church has Frosh, a Demo­crat, and other Mary­land lead­ers de­nounc­ing the be­hav­ior and try­ing to re­as­sure tar­geted groups that law en­force­ment will sup­port them.

A me­mo­rial wall at a Sil­ver Spring church was van­dal­ized over the weekend with the words “whites only” and “Trump na­tion.” A Howard County teenager posted a picture of her­self in black­face on so­cial me­dia, along with a slur for African-Amer­i­cans. The same slur de­faced a flier ad­ver­tis­ing a blood drive at Fall­ston High School in Har­ford County.

Sev­eral swastikas were found in a mid­dle school boys bath­room in Bethesda last week. Howard County school of­fi­cials on Mon­day were in­ves­ti­gat­ing bath­room graf­fiti at Mur­ray Hill Mid­dle School in Lau­rel. Of­fi­cials would de­scribe the mes­sage only as racially or re­li­giously in­tol­er­ant.

Frosh, a Demo­crat, blamed Trump’s cam­paign rhetoric on race, re­li­gion, dis­abil­ity and sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion for help­ing to un­leash what’s “ob­vi­ously be­com­ing a prob­lem all over the place.”

“I think that the dis­course in the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign reached lev­els lower than ever be­fore,” Frosh said in an in­ter­view. “It made it seem like this kind of be­hav­ior was ei­ther ac­cept­able or at least not il­le­gal.”

Frosh said he’s con­sid­er­ing ways to help lo­cal law en­force­ment in­ves­ti­gate hate crimes, which are prose­cuted by the state’s 24 lo­cal state’s at­tor­neys.

In an in­ter­view recorded Fri­day and aired Sun­day on CBS’ “60 Min­utes,” Trump said he was “very sur­prised” to hear about in­stances of hate speech.

“I am so sad­dened to hear that,” Trump said. “And I say, ‘Stop it.’ If it — if it helps. I will say this, and I will say right to the cam­eras: Stop it.”

Most of the pub­licly re­ported in­stances of hate speech in Mary­land in the past week have come from schools. Mary­land State Po­lice spokesman Gre­gory Ship­ley said the agency has no in­ves­ti­ga­tions un­der­way since last Tues­day in­volv­ing hate speech, racial slurs or hate crimes.

Ten­sion since the elec­tion has drawn new at­ten­tion to such speech. A swastika with the mes­sage “white power” painted on an In­ter­state 83 exit ramp in Baltimore led to sev­eral calls to po­lice last weekend. At least one passerby re­ported it to the An­tiDefama­tion League.

Marc Braun, a con­trac­tor and sculptor who painted over it, said a pan­han­dler told him the sym­bol was the re­sult of a turf war be­tween two pan­han­dlers.

On Mon­day, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama said he told Trump pri­vately that after the “bit­ter­ness and fe­roc­ity of the cam­paigns ... it’s re­ally im­por­tant to try to send some sig­nals of unity and reach out to mi­nor­ity groups.”

“And I think that’s some­thing that he will want to do, but this is all hap­pen­ing real fast,” Obama con­tin­ued. “My hope is that those im­pulses ul­ti­mately win out. But it’s a lit­tle too early to start mak­ing judg­ments on that.”

Hun­dreds of stu­dents walked out of class at Mont­gomery Blair High School in Sil­ver Spring to protest Trump’s elec­tion.

An­dres Perez, an18-year-old stu­dent from El Sal­vador who helped or­ga­nize the protest, said a stranger ap­proached him at a Metro stop last week and glee­fully an­nounced Perez would be de­ported now that Trump had won.

“It wasn’t re­ally that ag­gres­sive, he was just mak­ing fun of me,” he said. “But it ru­ined my day.”

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