State Dept. of Civil Rights, Attorney General Nessel step up to document, confront hate in Michigan

Michigan’s government is swinging into action in response to the rising tide of hate groups, bias incidents, and actual hate crimes in the state. In February, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights announced that it will create a database to keep track of bias incidents that don’t rise to the level of actual crimes. In early March, Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the formation of a new hate crimes unit.

Those new initiatives will be a welcome counter to a concerning, and even frightening, set of trends. In just three years, for example, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that the number of hate groups in Michigan alone has nearly doubled—from 19 in 2015 to 31 such groups in 2018.

Like-minded haters getting together to vent their rage to one another is one thing. Increasingly, though, bigots are also taking action. Every advocacy group serving the state’s minorities reached by Daily Kos during a recent informal survey reported a significant increase in bias incidents and outright hate crimes in recent years.

Carolyn Normandin, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Michigan office, said that in the past few years her office has seen “the largest uptick” in anti-Semitic incidents in the more than 40 years her organization has tracked them.

Equality Michigan’s director of victim services, Serena Johnson, told Daily Kos that anti-LGBTQ bias incidents and hate crimes have finally leveled off in the past 10 months or so after spiking by roughly 29 percent following Donald Trump’s election.

According to Dawud Walid, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan office, his organization has documented a rise in the number of anti-Muslim incidents in Michigan since Barack Obama was first elected president. Walid added that the number has continued to rise since the inauguration of Donald Trump. Just last month, an Arab-American Ypsilanti resident awakened to find the words “sand (n-word)” written on his garage door. The Washtenaw County prosecutor denied that racial bias was behind the incident.

The NAACP didn’t respond to requests for information about anti-black hate crimes and bias incidents in time for the deadline for this article.

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