Hate crimes in the U.S. went up by more than 20% in 2016, a spike experts say was fueled by the divisive rhetoric of the presidential campaign.
Now, researchers report that roughly one-fifth the attacks since November involved perpetrators invoking Donald Trump.
In February, for example, a gay Washington, D.C. man was attacked by a group of men wearing “Make America Great Again” hats. That same month, two gay men in Key West were attacked by a man who shouted, “You live in Trump country now!”
Gathering accurate and thorough data on hate crimes is always tricky: The FBI ostensibly tracks bias attacks, but most state and local jurisdictions don’t. As a result, a majority of hate crimes go unreported at the federal level.
To close that data gap, Propublica has been working with news outlets, universities, and civil rights groups across the country to create a comprehensive database of hate crime incidents. They have recorded some 1,400 incidents since they began tracking them in November.
“From our perspective it certainly looks like there have been more hate crimes since the election,” Heidi Beirich of the SPLC told Broadly. “About a fifth of the attacks we’ve collected were done in Trump’s name.”
The Trump administration denies there’s any connection between its rhetoric and policies and an increase in attacks: Last week, when a reporter asked White House press secretary Sean Spicer whether Trump’s removal of federal protections for trans students could be contributing the the recent increase in anti-LGBT hate crimes, Spicer responded, “that would be a stretch, to say the least.”
Gregory Herek, who’s been doing research on anti-gay violence since the 1980s, told Broadly this is a new development.
“In the past, there have been crimes where the perpetrators made some reference to larger events going on, like gay marriage. But this is the first I’ve heard of anyone invoking the name of the president.”