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Post-election boost to hate crimes: churches wake up to graffiti and vandalism

North America

Post-election boost to hate crimes: churches wake up to graffiti and vandalism

Vandals used a black magic marker to write “Trump Nation Whites Only” on the back of a sign advertising the weekly Spanish-language mass at Church of Our Saviour in Silver Spring, Maryland. Photo sourced on Facebook

Vandals used a black magic marker to write “Trump Nation Whites Only” on the back of a sign advertising the weekly Spanish-language mass at Church of Our Saviour in Silver Spring, Maryland. Photo sourced on Facebook

There has been a substantial rise in hate crimes following the election of Donald Trump as President-elect of the US, according to civil rights organisations.

Most of the acts of hateful intimidation and harassment—all of which were pulled from news reports, social media and submissions to the group—were characterized as “anti-immigrant” and took place either at businesses, schools and churches.

Much of it includes direct references to President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric and proposals.

Earlier this week, the FBI released new federal data that show a spike in hate crimes against Muslims and black people from 2014 to 2015.

While no one attributes the rise directly to Trump personally he provided an “open door” civil rights activists claim. In an interview with Lesley Stahl of CBS 60 Minutes, Trump looked into the camera and said he was “saddened” by what he heard and asked supporters committing hateful, violent acts in his name to “stop it.”

Protests and harassment have risen throughout the country with some reports that Trump supporters claiming harassment in New York City’s subways.

Episcopalians in Indiana and Maryland awoke Sunday morning to hate messages scrawled on their churches’ properties.

“I was disheartened at first to see the words on the wall but my second reaction was we must be doing something right,” said the Rev. Kelsey Hutto, priest-in-charge, of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Bean Blossom, Indiana, a small community of fewer than 3,000 people some 50 miles south of Indianapolis.

Vandals spray-painted “Heil Trump” on the exterior of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Bean Blossom, Indiana.

At first, the congregation – very active in the community through service and outreach – was heartbroken at the vandalism, said Hutto, in a telephone interview with Episcopal News Service.

“But as the service went on and the day went on, they turned from being hurt, not to vengeance … but they knew they had to react with love,” she said.

St David’s serves people from five communities in Brown County, Indiana, focusing its outreach on addressing hunger and the needs in a county where 97 percent of its 15,000 residents are white.

Indianapolis Bishop Catherine Waynick, in a message posted on the diocese’s website, said that while it is “deeply disturbing to be on the receiving end of such vitriol, it is also an opportunity to be very clear, with ourselves and the world around us, that we take seriously the commandment of our Lord to love one another with the same love God lavishes on every person – no exceptions.”

“We do not know who is responsible for the vandalism. What we do know is that the kind of language used during the recent presidential campaign has emboldened some people to become openly abusive and insulting. Our option as faithful people is to be sure we don’t respond in kind,” she said.

Since the election of Donald J. Trump, increased incidences of hate crimes, anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist graffiti referencing the president-elect’s campaign rhetoric and policy proposals have been seen across the United States. In some cases, Trump supporters have substituted the words “Make America White Again” for his campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

At the same time, thousands of protestors have taken to the streets in at least 52 cities across the country chanting slogans like “not my president,” and carrying signs reading “love trumps hate,” “dump trump” and “the future is nasty.” The latter is in reference to a comment Trump made about Hillary Clinton during the last presidential debate when he referred to her as “a nasty woman,” a slight that has since been adopted as a slogan by women nationwide.

US Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued a statement calling on Episcopalians to affirm their identity as followers of Jesus. “Last week I shared what I pray was a reconciling post-election message to our church, reminding us that ‘we will all live together as fellow Americans, as citizens.’ Today I want to remind us that during moments of transition, during moments of tension, it is important to affirm our core identity and values as followers of Jesus in the Episcopal Anglican way,” said Curry.

n the Hillendale section of Silver Spring, Maryland, vandals wrote “Trump Nation Whites Only” on the red-brick wall in the Church of Our Saviour’s memorial garden.  The Rev. Robert Harvey, Church of Our Saviour’s rector, first noticed the words “Trump Nation Whites Only” written on a wall in the parish’s memorial garden on his way in to his church for the 8 a.m. Eucharist. Once inside, as he went to check the mail, he saw that canvas banner advertising the church’s weekly Spanish-language mass had been slashed and vandalized with the same message.

In response to the vandalism at Church of Our Savior, many people posted messages of love and compassion on the Diocese of Washington’s Facebook page and asked what they could do to assist the church, while others suggested the vandal could just as easily be someone who is anti-Trump “to stir people up.” Another asked, “Could it have been the liberals that are rioting all across the country?”

Located just north of Washington, D.C., Silver Spring is a suburb of the nation’s capital and home to more than 70,000 people.

Church of Our Savior, Harvey said, serves a multicultural congregation with members from more than 50 countries, African-Americans and people from the African diaspora and Central and South Americans. Hillendale itself, he said, is 48 percent Latino.

Following a Spanish-language mass at Church of Our Saviour, attendees used chalk to write messages of love, peace and welcome on sidewalks and the street outside the church. Written in pink chalk were the words, “One Nación For Todos” or “One Nation For All” in Spanish and English.