In the two weeks since Donald Trump’s stunning victory over Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, hundreds of acts of harassment and intimidation aimed at supporters of both candidates have been reported around the country. In response, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo created a special police unit to address the “explosion” of hate crimes in the state.
“The ugly political discourse of the election did not end on Election Day,” Cuomo said on Sunday at a church in Harlem. “In many ways, it has gotten worse.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there have been more than 700 incidents of “hateful harassment,” including more than 40 in New York state alone.
“I wish I could say our beautiful state of New York was immune from this poison, but it’s not,” Cuomo said. “If you sow fear, you reap hysteria. If you sow divisiveness, you reap anarchy, and we are seeing that today.”
A toll-free hotline that allows New York residents to report incidents of bias and discrimination has received more than 400 calls since its launch on Friday, according to Cuomo’s office.
“This election season vented and fostered people’s anger, and no doubt that the anger is real and it comes with good cause,” Cuomo continued. “This fear and this anger — misdirected — seeks an enemy. It seeks a target, and that target has become people who we see as different than ourselves — people who look different, who have a different skin color, a different religion, a different sexuality, and they have become a target for this anger. But demonizing our differences injects a social poison into the fabric of our nation.”
The new police unit, Cuomo said, was set up to “address the explosion of hate crimes in our state.”
In a radio interview on Sunday, New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill said there has been “a little bit more than an uptick” in hate crimes, with 328 documented this year, compared to 250 in 2015.
Additionally, Cuomo said he will seek to expand New York’s Human Rights Law in order to protect students who are bullied or face discrimination.
The governor also vowed to set up a legal defense fund for immigrants who fear they might be deported under a Trump administration.
“If there is a move to deport immigrants, then I say start with me,” Cuomo said. “I am a son of immigrants. Son of Mario Cuomo, who is the son of Andrea Cuomo, a poor Italian immigrant who came to this country without a job, without money, or resources and he was here only for the promise of America.”
Cuomo’s comments came the same day a rally was held in a Brooklyn park that had been vandalized with swastikas and pro-Trump graffiti.
The playground, named after late Beastie Boys rapper Adam Yauch, was attended by more than 300 people, including actor Ben Stiller and surviving Beastie Boys band member Adam Horovitz, better known as Ad-Rock.
“Spray-painting swastikas in a children’s playground is a messed-up thing to do,” Horovitz said. “And for many of us, it has special meaning, because this park is named for Adam Yauch, who was my friend and bandmate for over 30 years. But he was also someone who taught nonviolence in his music, in his life — to all of us, and to me.”