On February 4, 2017, a local New York attorney posted the events of the evening on his Facebook page. Little did he know that his actions would spark a huge sharing and support within just a few days. In fact, his post would end up going viral in under a week.
Gregory Locke’s Facebook post described his ride on the New York subway on the evening of February 4, 2016. He boarded a Bronx bound No. 1 train and immediately noticed that someone had drawn Swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti in several places on the train car. He attempted to wipe it off, hoping that it was just dry erase marker, but the markings were made with permanent marker.
A gentleman nearby saw Locke’s efforts and noted that he thought the writing could be removed with hand sanitizer. The 27-year-old attorney asked fellow passengers if anyone had any hand sanitizer with them. Locke reported, “I’ve never seen so many people simultaneously reach into their bags and pockets looking for tissues and Purell. Within about two minutes, all the Nazi symbolism was gone.”
Locke’s story expresses two underlying thoughts-concern that these hate-filled actions are taking place at all and admiration for those like Locke who are taking action.
Concerning Trends from Extremist Groups
Unfortunately, the writing that Locke experienced has become more common based on the political unrest caused by the Presidential election. In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center reports that in the ten days after the November 8 Presidential election, it recorded roughly 100 events related to anti-Semitism. These included events related to graffiti, intimidation, and vandalism. Some of the incidents contained direct references to Trump. These accounted for 12 percent of all the hate incidents in the U.S. recorded by a civil rights watchdog.
Since the new year, there have been a recorded nearly 50 bomb threats to various Jewish community centers throughout the United States. Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League reports that he believes that anti-Jewish public and political turbulence is comparable to the 1930s.
Increase in Other Hate-Related Incidents
The Southern Poverty Law Center report following the election included 867 total hate incidents, many of which targeted other groups as well, including immigrants, African-Americans, Muslims, and the LGBT community. The Law Center reported that the recorded incidents “almost certainly represent a small fraction of the actual number of election-related hate incidents.” They base this statement on a Bureau of Justice statistic that estimates that only two-third of hate crimes are actually reported to authorities.
The Southern Poverty Law Center surmises that far-right groups, including neo-Nazis, have been attempting to take advantage of the political upheaval that has resulted from the recent Presidential election. White nationalists have been generally supportive of Trump, particularly due to his “Muslim ban,” and stance on issues related to Mexican immigrants.
The Law Center also noted that 23 of the reported 867 incidents were reported to be specifically anti-Trump, including harassment of Trump supporters.
Standing Up for Anti-Hate
New York is the preverbal melting pot of the U.S., and it is especially important to spread messages of inclusion and tolerance throughout the city. If extremist groups are becoming more active to take advantage of political unrest, it will take more people like Locke to make extra efforts to remove messages of hate or discrimination. Locke’s story inspires hope that Americans will not put up with spreading hateful messages like those that Locke found on his subway ride into the city