New York police probe swastikas amid reports of hate crimes
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By Laila Kearney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Police in New York were investigating two cases on Monday involving swastikas drawn or painted in public spaces, as civil rights activists said there had been a surge in hate crimes following last week's U.S presidential election.
Surveillance video was released of a suspect wearing a gray sweater and backpack, who is believed to have spray-painted a large swastika in front of a 78-year-old man's home in Brooklyn on Saturday, police said. The man's residence is in the borough's Crown Heights section, a predominantly Jewish area.
Also on Saturday, swastikas were drawn on four dormitory doors at the New School, a progressive private university in Manhattan that includes the Parsons School of Design.
School president David Van Zandt said police were investigating, and that the graffiti was "intended to threaten and express hatred toward some of our students because of their identity."
Civil rights groups say racial and religious minorities nationwide have been targeted since Republican Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8.
His divisive campaign rhetoric has emboldened some of his supporters to spread racist messages, civil rights leaders say.
Since the vote, Trump himself has called for peace and unity, and has denounced the white supremacist groups that supported him.
Some Trump supporters say they, too, have been subjected to ugly rhetoric and worse from opponents.
The American Civil Liberties Union said it had received a surge of donations, totaling $7.2 million, since Election Day.
"This is the greatest outpouring of support for the ACLU in our nearly 100-year history," ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero, said in a statement.
HATE CRIMES SURGE
An annual Federal Bureau of Investigation report showed 5,850 hate crimes reported in the United States last year, up 7 percent from 2014.
Anti-Jewish crimes were up 9 percent, and made up more than half of the 1,244 hate crimes based on religion. Anti-Muslim bias crimes rose 67 percent from 2014, to 257, the data showed.
Bias crimes against African-Americans were up 7 percent last year to 1,745, making up 30 percent of all hate crimes.
A day after the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, began tracking reports of hate crimes made to the center, in the news and on social media.
By Monday, they had tallied more than 300 reports of physical or verbal altercations and vandalism, said Ryan Lenz, editor of the center's Hatewatch blog.
While that appeared to represent a "sharp uptick," Lenz said, the organization began monitoring after the vote and could not make a comparison with numbers prior to the election.
Among the incidents reported were a University of Oklahoma student accused of sending racist messages, including some from a source called "Trump's Disciples," to black freshman at the University of Pennsylvania.
Trump said on Sunday he was "so saddened" to hear about racial slurs and personal threats made against African Americans, Latinos and gay people by some of his supporters.
"I say, 'Stop it.' If it - if it helps," Trump told CBS' "60 Minutes" in an interview.
(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, Ian Simpson and Dustin Volz in Washington; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Alan Crosby)
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