Earlier this year, SAALT released our post-election analysis of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric called “Communities on Fire.” During the first year following the 2016 presidential election (November 7, 2016 to November 7, 2017)—we documented 302 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at our communities, an over 45% increase from our previous analysis in just one year. An astounding eighty-two percent of incidents were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment. Additionally, One out of every five perpetrators of hate violence incidents referenced President Trump, a Trump administration policy (“Muslim Ban”), or Trump campaign slogn (“Make America Great Again”) while committing the attack.
Since November 7, 2017, which marked one year since the presidential election, SAALT has documented 40 additional incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric. Three of the eight instances of xenophobic political rhetoric were anti-Muslim videos retweeted by President Trump in a single day.
Fourteen of the thirty-two incidents of hate violence were verbal/written assaults, followed by twelve incidents of property damage, and six physical assaults. The cumulative post-election total is shown in Figure 1 below compared to the year leading up to the presidential election.
On December 1, 2017, Bernardino Bolatete was arrested for planning to “shoot up” the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida. He told an undercover detective, “I just want to give these freaking people a taste of their own medicine, you know? They are the ones who are always doing these shootings, the killings.” Following this event, four more mosques were vandalized around the country. Mosques in Upper Darby, PA; Clovis, NM, and Queens, NY were vandalized with “Trump”, “Terr-” “911” and other anti-muslim phrases.
In tune with the disturbing trend of Mosque vandalism, Tahnee Gonzales and Elizabeth Dauenhauer trespassed the Islamic Community Center of Tempe, Arizona. While on Facebook lives, the women stole the masjid’s educational material and called Muslims “devil-worshippers” who are destroying “America.” The women also encouraged their children to participate in anti-Muslim behavior.
Continued Targeting of Sikh Americans
Twenty-two percent of hate incidents we documented in “Communites on Fire” targeted men who identify or are perceived as South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, or Arab. Perpetrators of hate crimes often use the religious presentation of turban-wearing Sikh men to target them. Our report found over seven incidents of hate violence aimed directly against Sikhs Americans, which reflected a significant disconnect between SAALT’s community-reported and publicly-sourced data and data reported to the FBI.
In January 2018, at least three incidents of hate violence targeted Sikh men. In Bellevue, Washington, an unknown perpetrator took a hammer from his bag and swung it against the head of Swarn Singh, causing his head to bleed. At the AM/PM convenience store in Federal Way, Washington, a man threatened to kill a Sikh employee and told him to “go back where you came from.” Later in the month, a Sikh Uber driver, Gurjeet Singh, picked up a couple in Moline, Illinois. The male suspect put a gun to Singh’s head saying that he hated “turban people.”
Additionally, on March 3, 2018 Chad Horsely plowed his pickup truck into Best Stop Convenience Store because he thought the store owners were Muslim; they were Sikh Americans. On February 20, 2018, a Sikh gas station owner was called a “terrorist” and told that he should “go back to his own country.” When the victim tried to take photos of the vehicle license plate, Steven Laverty exited the vehicle and tried to punch the victim and took his phone. On February 1, 2018, Pit Stop Gas Station in Kentucky, owned by a Sikh American, was found vandalized with swastikas, “white power,” “leave,” and “f**k you,” spray-painted on its exterior.
While we recognize that many instances of hate violence or xenophobic rhetoric against our communities go unreported, we at SAALT remain committed in refusing to normalize hate. Download our report “Communites on Fire”, to read more about our recommendations on how to combat hate violence and address the underlying systems and structures that produce this violence.