Hate crimes rise under Trump

FBI report finds spike in anti-Semitic attacks

 President Trump exhorts the crowd at a campaign rally at Southern Illinois Airport, where he denounced an anti-Semitic attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

President Trump exhorts the crowd at a campaign rally at Southern Illinois Airport, where he denounced an anti-Semitic attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

Hate crimes rose in the first year of the Trump administration, with anti-Semitism especially on the increase, according to an annual report released Tuesday by the FBI.

The FBI’s Hate Crimes, 2017 report did not emphasize a year-to-year comparison, but news organizations found that hate crimes rose 17 percent with almost 1,000 more reported from 2016 to 2017.

Hate crimes are considered as “being motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity.” The FBI did emphasize that it received reports from almost 1,000 more law-enforcement agencies last year.

But that didn’t account for the 23 percent rise in religion-based hate crimes and a 37 percent increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes, which prompted a statement from newly appointed acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.

“I am particularly troubled by the increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes — which were already the most common religious hate crimes in the United States — that is well documented in this report," Whitaker said.

I am particularly troubled by the increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes — which were already the most common religious hate crimes in the United States.
— Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker

Critics have complained that President Trump has encouraged anti-Semitism and point to his waffling response to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., last year, where marchers bearing torches chanted, “Jews will not replace us.”

Although the worst incident in rival protests and counterprotests in Charlottesville involved a 20-year-old neo-Nazi who drove a car into a crowd of counterprotests, killing a woman and injuring 19 people, Trump later said, “I think there is blame on both sides.”

The FBI study has found hate crimes on the rise for three straight years, but critics said Trump has failed to tamp it down and in fact has helped create the environment in which 46-year-old Robert Bowers killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue late last month. Although Trump said everything anyone would hope in addressing the attack later that day in a campaign rally at Southern Illinois Airport, some said he could have taken a stronger stance against anti-Semitism ahead of that attack.

According to the report, in 2017: “There were 7,106 single-bias incidents involving 8,493 victims. A percent distribution of victims by bias type shows that 59.6 percent of victims were targeted because of the offenders’ race/ethnicity/ancestry bias; 20.6 percent were targeted because of the offenders’ religious bias; 15.8 percent were victimized because of the offenders’ sexual-orientation bias; 1.9 percent were victimized because of the offenders’ disability bias; 1.6 percent were targeted because of the offenders’ gender identity bias; and 0.6 percent were victimized because of the offenders’ gender bias.” An additional 69 hate crimes involving 335 victims were categorized as “multi-bias hate crimes” drawing on various forms of discrimination.

“This report is a call to action — and we will heed that call," Whitaker said. "The Department of Justice’s top priority is to reduce violent crime in America, and hate crimes are violent crimes.”