L.A. County hate crimes linked to white supremacists jumped 67% in 2016, study finds

The Los Angeles Times, November 16, 2017

The Hollywood Sikh Temple was vandalized in September. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County saw a surge in reported hate crimes last year linked to white supremacists, with a wave of incidents targeting Jews, Muslims and African Americans, according to a study released Thursday.

Immigrants have also been targeted, prompting officials to call in sheriff’s deputies to maintain calm at public meetings.

“For the last several months we’ve had to alert the Sheriff’s Department because white supremacists and anti-immigrants groups have been disruptive in communities like Cudahy,” county Supervisor Hilda Solis said. “Residents are fearful to attend these meetings because these groups have shown up yelling fearful rhetoric and even brandishing weapons at times.”

Reported hate crimes linked to white supremacists jumped from 63 in 2015 to 105 last year, a 67% increase, according to the annual study conducted by the L.A. County Commission on Human Relations.

Overall, 482 incidents were reported, roughly the same as in 2015. But that followed a 24% jump from 2014 to 2015 — a surge that the study said was fueled in part by anti-Muslim reaction to the Dec. 2, 2015, terror attack in San Bernardino.

The study found that a majority of the reported hate crimes linked to white supremacists — 52% — were motivated by religion and targeted mostly Jews. Last year, swastikas were found on vehicles, synagogues, schools and Jewish-owned businesses.

Race was the motivation for 36% of the white supremacist hate crimes, the study found. The most frequently targeted group in these crimes were African Americans.

The study also found that L.A. County saw an increase in gender-based crimes, particularly against transgender people. There were 39 reported gender-based crimes compared with 22 the year before — a 77% increase.

The most targeted within that group in 2016 was Latina transgender women.

Mariana Marroquin, an anti-violence project manager at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, said she was attacked about 20 years ago by a group of people because of her gender identity.

“I was beat up and stripped while my attackers were planning how to kill me,” said Marroquin, who identifies as a transgender woman and an immigrant. “We can do better…. We are survivors and fighters, and we came so far that we cannot go back.”

The study covered the period during and after the 2016 presidential campaign, in which President Trump made a series of controversial comments about Muslims and Mexicans. Critics have complained that his comments emboldened white nationalist groups.

The study found that after the election, from Nov. 8 through Dec. 31, there were 82 reported incidents — a 9% increase from the previous year.

For instance, shortly after the election mosques in L.A. County received a series of handwritten letters praising Trump and calling for the eradication of Muslims in the country.

While L.A. County’s total showed no increase, reports of hate crimes have been on the rise in recent years across California and the nation.

The California attorney general’s office reported an 11.2% statewide increase in hate crimes in 2016. According to FBI statistics released this week, hate crimes across the nation were up 5% in 2016 from the previous year.

The study, which has been conducted annually since 1980, is based on reports from every law enforcement agency in L.A. County and community-based organizations.

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