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Bay Area vulnerable to Trump supporters' hate too

Anna Lekas Miller Oakland
January 8, 2017

The San Francisco Bay Area has been at the fore of the "resistance" against Donald Trump since he was elected president. But even in this hub of left-leaning politics, hate crimes have occurred and locals are worried.

The Golden Gate Bridge with San Francisco in the background
Image: DW

Historically, the Bay Area in Northern California has had a reputation for being one of the most progressively-oriented pockets of the United States - and the aftermath of Trump's election and weeks leading up to the inauguration have proven no exception.

During the campaign, the Castro - a historically LGBTQ-friendly neighborhood in San Francisco - was the first home to an unflattering naked Donald Trump statue, a phenomenon which quickly spread to left-leaning cities across the country. On the day of the election, comically low numbers turned out for Donald Trump in counties across the San Francisco Bay Area - with as low as three percent of the vote going to Donald Trump in Berkeley. 

Shortly after the results came in, San Francisco and Oakland were some of the first cities in the United States to organize protests against the president-elect's rise to power and proposed policies - many of which are perceived as openly racist and detrimental to minorities, if not the greater American public. Due to its demographics and history of resistance to injustices from labor abuses to police brutality, the Bay Area was christened the capital of resistance to Donald Trump.

However, this liberal reputation has not been enough protected the Bay Area's residents from the wave of hate crimes that swept the country since the election.

"After the election, we definitely started hearing from more people who were experiencing hate incidents and hate crimes," Zahra Billoo, executive director of Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) told DW. In the first weeks after the election, her office, based in Santa Clara, received as many as three complaints of threats or incidents per week.

Protesters against President-elect Trump march peacefully in Oakland, California, on November 9, 2016
Protesters in Oakland took to the streets after Trump was declared the winner of the electionImage: Reuters/N. Berger

"What shifted is that people are more on edge and more fearful," she continues. "Not just of what is happening across the country, but because of the attacks that they know about in the Bay Area. And then because of the unknown about what will happen when Donald Trump takes office."

Less blatant

In the 10 days following the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center recorded 867 reported hate crimes across the country, ranging from race-motivated deaths, including a murder in the Bay Area, to street harassment and verbal threats towards immigrants and people speaking foreign languages or Muslim women wearing hijabs. In the weeks leading up to the inauguration, many have been gearing up for another surge in threats as well as the beginning of the implementation of policies Trump has promised for his first days in office.

"In some ways it is as bad here as it is in other places, but it is less blatant," Billoo said, of the situation in the Bay Area. While several counties of the Bay Area have historically had problems with police violence and hate crimes, many of the hateful incidents that have happened in the aftermath of the election have specifically referred to either Trump or his rhetoric.

"Our elected officials will say the right thing and support diversity and unity and sanctuary, but there are still people here who will act out in hate," Billoo continued.

In addition to several isolated incidents of attacks and harassment, some groups went so far as to vandalize public property with hateful messages and even threaten institutions. At one high school in the East Bay, students scrawled "white" and "colored" over the lockers in the boy's bathroom. In Fremont, a group calling itself "Americans For A Better Way" sent a letter to the local mosque as well as four others in California addressed to "children of Satan," assuring them that Donald Trump would do to them, "what Hitler had done to the Jews." Despite multiple requests for the incident to be investigated as a hate crime, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) did not do so, saying the language was sensational and not specific enough to be categorized as a threat.

Not just hate crimes

It isn't only the recent spike in hate crimes that indicates changing political tides in the Bay Area. It is also the multi-billion dollar technology industry which, though it overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign, has recently - and controversially - met with Trump, causing many to believe that ultimately they will work in his favor.

This fear is already being reflected in certain companies' decisions. According to recent research from the "Intercept," of nine major technology companies surveyed in the aftermath of the election, only half have gone on the record publicly refusing to cooperate with Trump's controversial plan to register all Muslims living in the United States. This is only one of several policy proposals - such as mass deportations and increased surveillance of US citizens - that could harness the power of technology to move forward.

'Never again'

"Donald Trump's election has made our work a lot more urgent," Billoo said. In the aftermath of the election, Billoo encouraged those who contacted CAIR with concerns about the increase in hate crimes within the community to have an active safety plan, learn self-defense and, particularly for non-citizens, ensure that they have legal consultation available in case of deportation procedures.

Donald Trump meets with leaders of the technology industry
Trump met with leaders of the tech industry in mid-DecemberImage: Getty Images/AFP/T.A. Clary

In addition to organizers like Billoo, individual technology workers have been standing up to the industry, demanding that they ensure their sector is used for good and not evil.

"We are choosing to stand in solidarity with Muslim Americans, immigrants and all people whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by the incoming administration's proposed data collection policies," reads a pledge signed by 2,843 tech workers, which circulated while Trump met with Silicon Valley executives.

"Today we stand together to say, not on our watch. Never again."