Hate on the rise
Feb. 27, 2017. Police lights flash outside the Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham, Ala. What should have been a routine day was disrupted by the third bomb threat this year.
“We followed our protocol,” center director Betzy Lynch told reporters as she stood in the rain that day. “Police responded. K-9 units responded. The building was cleared and everybody’s returning to normal.”
Bomb threats filled with hate towards Jews
Lynch said all three bomb threats were made by phone. The voice on the other end was disguised. The threats were filled with hate towards Jews, even though most members and students at the Levite JCC aren’t Jewish. The last call, was especially troubling. It was made to the center’s day school filled with kids ranging from kindergarteners to eighth graders.
The message was horrific,” Lynch told ABC 33/40 News. “It specifically targeted Jews and bloodshed and it’s terrible. The threat was very specific about doing damage to Jewish children.”
Jewish Community Centers and schools in 81 locations, in the United States and Canada, have been targets of bomb threats this year, according to the JCC Association of North America.
An arrest, but not the main suspect
Last Friday, 31-year-old Juan Thompson was arrested in St. Louis in connection with bomb threats to Jewish organizations in New York, Michigan, Dallas and San Diego.
Law enforcement officials told ABC News Thompson appeared to take advantage of news coverage of the rash of bomb threats, in order to exact revenge on a woman who ended a romantic relationship.
Law enforcement officials said Thompson isn’t believed to be the main suspect behind this year's rash of bomb threats.
Nearly 1,400 hate or bias incidents since November 9, 2016
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate in America, says there have been 1,372 reported hate or bias incidents against minority groups since the day after President Trump’s election and February 7, 2017. The group doesn’t have data from the same period the year before.
“The problem with this movement of racist ideology — from the margins of our culture to the mainstream of our societies — is that it legitimizes it all, said Ryan Lenz, senior writer for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. “It makes it seem like it’s okay, and why wouldn’t it be okay when you have a president calling the Mexicans rapists.”
A threatening email targeting Muslims
Just two weeks ago, an email targeting Muslims was sent to the Birmingham Islamic Society.
“Plan to run or die. This is the kindness that will give you warning,” the email said, according to Ashfaq Taufique, the president of the Birmingham Islamic Society.
A racist death threat via Facebook Messenger
Last October, University of Alabama student Jamal Commander, was on Facebook. He joined in a wide-ranging discussion about black-on-black crime and police brutality. Then he received a racist death threat through Facebook Messenger.
“Very alarming,” Commander said. “It makes you remember how times — as they’re progressing, definitely — that there are still people out there that genuinely don’t like you.”
The anonymity of the Internet
Experts say sites like Facebook and Twitter give people the freedom to say what they want — without the restrictions of basic social filters.
“What you get is heightened statements, you get more extreme statements, and you get this perception of invulnerability by the perpetrator, said University of Alabama at Birmingham clinical psychologist Josh Klapow, Ph.D.
Lenz said online hate and extremism is a huge problem.
“It’s the anonymity that the web affords,” Lenz said. “You can say things that you would never be caught saying in public, online, and you can just go about your business.”
Andrew Anglin: “I wouldn’t be friends with a non-white person”
The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the Daily Stormer the top hate website in America. It’s filled with raw racist posts and comments. The founder of the website spews hate online and in interviews.
“I wouldn’t be friends with a non-white person,” Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin told ABC/Fox Montana in January. “I have no reason to be.”
President Trump addressed hate in America during congressional speech
Hate in America has gotten so bad, that President Donald Trump addressed it during his first speech to a joint session of Congress last week.
“We are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms,” President Trump said.
Hate crimes underreported?
The FBI’s most recent report on hate crimes showed nearly a seven percent overall increase and a 67 percent rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes.
But that report only scratches the surface.
More than 3,000 state and local law enforcement agencies don’t even report hate crimes to the FBI, according to the non-profit journalism watchdog group ProPublica.
So, we really may not know the true extent of the problem across America.