Dozens of civil rights groups are banding together in a new national coalition to fight the spread of hate speech and violence stemming from the campaign of President-elect Donald Trump, organizers said Wednesday.
The Coalition Against Hate would serve as a central organizing power to protect the rights of vulnerable communities at a time when Trump’s choices for top posts have left many advocates worried that bigotry, xenophobia and conspiracy theories will be tolerated, if not embraced.
The organizers criticized Trump for failing to condemn supporters who espouse such ideologies and said the goal was to work together to prevent hate and bias from becoming “the new normal.”
“The president-elect has been stubbornly silent. We, however, will not be silent,” said Karen Tumlin, legal director at the National Immigration Law Center, a legal advocacy group in Washington and a member of the Coalition Against Hate.
Another member of the coalition, the Southern Poverty Law Center, has recorded more than 900 hate crimes nationwide since Trump’s election. The vast majority are aimed at racial and religious minorities, while “a small number of these incidents” targeted Trump supporters, said Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s extremism-tracking program.
Beirich said she was shocked when she went to work the Wednesday after the election to find her office inundated with reports from witnesses to or victims of hate incidents, just hours after Trump’s victory was announced. The pace hasn’t slowed since, she said, calling it the worst outbreak she’s seen in her nearly two decades at the center.
“It seems like every form of hatred that exists has expressed itself in the days since this election,” Beirich said. “No corner of the country has been spared. This has happened everywhere.”
Trump has yet to deliver a forceful rejection of the racist and bigoted voices among his supporters; activists said his call for bias-motivated attackers to “stop it” in an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes” simply wasn’t enough. And they took little reassurance from the removal of a vocal conspiracy theorist – Michael Flynn Jr., son of the retired general tapped for national security adviser – from Trump’s transition team.
That’s no victory, the activists said, when Trump is still willing to court such polarizing voices as Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, former Breitbart news executive Steve Bannon, conservative pundit Laura Ingraham, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, among others.
Those names point to “a Trump administration filled with well-known Islamophobes, anti-Semites, white supremacists and bigots,” said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Los Angeles branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has joined the coalition.
Alex Nogales, president of the California.-based National Hispanic Media Coalition, said the new anti-hate front will work on a slate of top priorities, including rejecting the idea of a so-called “Muslim registry” and building awareness about the rash of hate crimes that has spread across the country. The group created a website – www.breakhate.net – and launched a social media campaign under #breakhate. So far, 48 activist and faith groups have joined; the coalition expects to have 100 by next month.
Organizers have met with news executives to encourage them to run public service announcements against racial and other hatred, and to avoid euphemisms such as “alt-right” when describing white supremacists. Activists also met with Facebook representatives and have a meeting planned with Google to brainstorm ways to combat the proliferation of disinformation such as the “pizzagate” debacle, in which a gunman’s invasion of a northwest Washington pizza restaurant showed the real-world consequences of spreading fake news online.
Nogales said he expects the coalition would engage directly with the Trump camp at some point, but suggested he didn’t think it would do much good. When Trump was bashing Mexicans at rallies before the election, Nogales said, he called the campaign to complain and got an unsettling response.
“He had his top lawyer call me to tell me that, unless we stop saying what we were saying, he was going to sue us,” Nogales said.